The global football democracy

(photo from cotni.org)

What utter crap of an article. Ok, that does sound pretty mean. The article is fine, the argument is not.

Franciso Torro argues that the root problem behind FIFA’s corruption is the power of the “unbreakable web of cronies” at the national level. That much is true, it is the problem, however his solution to this is definitely not the answer.

“One player, one vote” sounds great as a slogan, but giving countries voting power based on the number of registered players is so incredibly flawed and a dangerous path to go down for the global nature of the game.

My first major problem begins here, “It gives small countries hugely outsized influence over the organization, influence out of all proportion to their interest in or contribution to the game” (emphasis, mine). You can throw viewership numbers, financial numbers around, but to me that is no way to measure countries’ interest in the game. Yes, this is an argument of the heart, football is a game of the heart, to me and so many more. You need only recall the wild emotions of last year’s World Cup to know that. It is the most global sport there is, it is the beautiful game (no corrupt people in suits and ties are going to change that), and the claim that smaller countries have a smaller interest in the game is a poor argument to make. Contribution may be low now, but it will also be kept that way if the author’s proposal is taken up. Allow it to grow.

Blatter certainly did garner a lot of votes by pouring development funds into small countries, and what exactly is the problem with that? Big countries already have the funds to do this, small countries need the assistance to have the opportunity to grow the game. This is how the global game really stays global, and continues to grow. Sign up more players, he says. How can you possibly do that when you lack the funds and the facilities to provide for these players?

He puts some good numbers in to justify it, the huge disparity in number of football players between various countries. An example, “5,257 times more people play soccer in Germany than in Bhutan”. No shit! 80 million people, compared to less than 1 million. That isn’t even taking into account economic differences between the two. That also ignores the fact that if literally every person in Bhutan registered and played football, 100% of its population “contributing” to the game, “interested” in the game, they still would not stand a chance to have a fraction of the voting power that Germany would have under this proposed system, because 2% of Germany’s population is greater than 100% of Bhutan’s. “Interest” and “Contribution” has a ceiling.

And let’s be clear, “registered soccer players” takes into account people that play the game officially, at some level. It isn’t going to take into account a bunch of kids who kick around a ball rolled together from plastic bags because they don’t have the time, resources or facilities to be officially registered with FIFA. How do they get access to such facilities? Through funds provided by FIFA. That’s how you grow the game, that’s how you give kids opportunities that they otherwise will not have.

The reason that football is so popular, yes this is going to sound obvious, is because it is the most global game there is. There is no sport (maybe with the exception of track and field) that is played in more countries in the world, or certainly by more people. Giving greater power (votes in FIFA) to the top footballing nations will just perpetuate their ability and status, and not properly further global football development.

When the arrests were made, when Blatter resigned, there was a big cheer from a lot of people. Yes, it needed to be done, however there were also a lot of people who started looking ahead and thinking, “Who is going to fill this void?” It’s a scary thought. Time will only show how this plays out, but an increasingly euro-centric FIFA is hardly unlikely.

Blatter had many faults, but his funding football development in smaller countries was certainly not one of them. FIFA’s “one country, one vote” system is also susceptible to corruption. That’s no surprise, democracy is a good thing when done properly, but it’s not a system that is perfect in reality. The solution is to increase transparency and regulation of national associations to ensure that voting at the national level, and international level is clean. Centralizing power will shrink the game, maybe not in the financial sense, but certainly in its status as a truly global game.

I for one hope they retain the current system. By all means, clean it up, at the national levels too, but maintain the parity. Global democracy for the global game.

Advertisements

I give thanks for you, and you should too.

Another inspired by today’s, “Our Daily Bread”. Thank you Dave Branon!

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

It’s true, and how amazing it is! We, each of us, every one of the seven billion plus people on this planet, are specially made, for a purpose. We all, in some way, inspire others.

These days, with the ease of access to so much information, so much news and feature articles, we learn about so many people and their achievements. Whether it be a CEO with their billions of dollars, someone who managed to give power to his village (I’m biased with this one), we read about people who are so influential, who change the lives of so many. They are important.

But so are you! You, reading this article. This will sound so cliché, but I don’t care, because it so wonderfully true. You matter! You are special! You are important!

You may not be Bill Gates, or William Kamkwaba, yet. You may not be anything like them, period. But you are unique, and you are here for a reason.

Think about all the impacts that you have had, in your life. Honestly, I dare you to write them down. Every single positive impact you have had on someone’s life. That would take up pages and pages, and that list would only end because you probably can’t recall every single time you helped someone, every time that you mattered to someone. That list (if you did it, well done!) is only the times that you know about.

Then there are the countless times that something you said, something you did, has helped somebody and they didn’t tell you. Feel important yet? You should.

This could be even more so with the existence of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It may seem trivial but I for one think of so many times that someone has posted a song, a quote, a picture. Maybe it reminds me of the beauty in the world, after a dark day. Maybe it reminds me of love in the world. Maybe it reminds me of a person or place in my past, that makes me smile. But it impacts me, it makes me happy, and all this, sometimes from a total stranger I may not have thanked.

This may seem insignificant to you, but I swear, in that moment, when you feel uplifted by somebody else, it’s a wonderful feeling. You could be that person to me. You are most certainly that person to somebody else.

I may be drifting here, but this is what you do. Your actions, your words, they make me go on a happy journey of thoughts and memories. You do that to others too.

Chances are, you are not the smartest person in the world, you are not the tallest, you are not the richest, you are not the most beautiful. Harsh truths.

But I absolutely guarantee that you matter, and you are wonderful in the way you are made. I am also so sure that somebody thinks the world of you. Maybe it’s your mother, but their opinions count too!

The fact that you exist is amazing. God chose to create YOU! Not another person, buy YOU. You are so important that I should probably keep writing “YOU” until you realise how important you are. In fact, I think I will. He chose YOU as the person to be placed in so many people’s lives. He has chosen YOU to be the answer to so many prayers that you don’t even know about.

Yes, it is easy to feel insignificant when you think you are one in more than seven billion. But you were chosen for this life. That is amazing!

You may wonder about yourself sometimes. Why you act the way you do, why you look the way you do, why you have to be such a perfectionist even. Essentially, why you are who you are.

Maybe you already know this, or maybe you haven’t discovered it yet. But you have a purpose on this earth. You will find it out in God’s time, and in the mean time, I know that you are already doing great work in people’s lives. You may think some of it unimportant. Sharing a smile with someone, giving someone a helping hand, offering your seat to someone on a bus. These are daily things, so easy to do, but they allow you to make a sudden, immediate impact in a total stranger’s day. It may seem small, it could be small, but it could also matter to someone.

You matter to your parents, you matter to your children, you matter to your siblings, you matter to your cousins, uncles, aunts, you matter to your colleagues, you matter to your friends, you matter to people you don’t even know that you matter to.

To help this along, if you read this, go ahead and tell somebody, anybody, that they matter to you. Maybe you can even tell them why they matter to you. But just tell them. Today. If you are really up for it, try tell someone every day for the next week.

On behalf of someone who didn’t tell you today, thank you for being you. Thank God for making you, because of all the good you have done, and all the good you are yet to do.

If you ever feel low, and I am sure we all do from time to time, just remember, you are not insignificant. You are incredible.

Evangelizing without even trying – The best way to be a light for God

Every year, twice a year, the entire Broadway community bands to raise funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. After each performance, a member of the cast does a short speech informing the audience how they can make a donation. At Mamma Mia, the show where I am a part of the cast, we have small rotation of people who perform this speech on any given night. During collection season, I would say I give the speech probably 20-30 times.

When my turn rolls around, I try and keep my talk as encouraging and simple as possible, while obviously leaving room for a few of my stupid jokes. After dispensing all the necessary information and receiving limited pity laughs in response, I always end my speech the same way, “Thanks so much for choosing Mamma Mia! Have a wonderful night. God Bless.” Cue the band. Dance off the stage. Figure out new (better) jokes on the ride home. Nothing too flashy.

One evening though, after a matinee performance where I had done the speech, I received an email from a guy named Ryan. Here’s what he had to say…

Hey Jon —

My name is Ryan and I was at your show this afternoon. After explaining the Broadway Cares project, you said “God bless” to the audience, which caught me off guard. A quick peek at your Twitter feed, and boy, was I surprised — and impressed. I work in political journalism, where being vocal about faith isn’t exactly smiled upon, so it was an encouragement to me to see that kind of public display of faith from the stage — and in your online presence. I’m guessing that takes some courage. Anyway, I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. Take care and keep up the good work.

If Ryan was surprised by my “public display of faith,” then my reaction to hearing that he viewed it that way was one of absolutely shock. I wasn’t trying to “display my faith” or “evangelize,” I was just saying what comes naturally to me when I finish a conversation with people. I was amazed how something so small could be such a big encouragement to him.

Then I remembered the kind of God I was dealing with.

A lot of times we think that in order to be “used by God” we have to have some life changing conversation, start a pre-work Bible study, do a worship gathering in the middle of the cafeteria, or preach from a soapbox on a street corner. These things may be what God is calling you to do in your workplace, your school, or your city, but they are not the only way to witness to those around us.

When I think about the times when I really felt used by God to witness to someone, whether they had the same beliefs as me or not, it was never when I had some hidden agenda to “convert”. My most significant evangelistic experiences have almost always crept up on me unexpectedly, when I was just living authentically and speaking truth from my heart.

Saying “God bless” was not some heavy evangelism strategy on my part, but it did plant a seed in Ryan’s mind. It sparked an interest that led him to my bio, which led him to finding me online where I speak much more openly and specifically about my faith. Did I need to quote a bible verse on tithing in my speech or write my testimony into my program bio? No. All I did was speak authentically from the heart, and God (in the way he so often does) used those two small words as a big encouragement to a fellow brother in Christ.

What if we make evangelism harder than it has to be?

What if we put too much pressure on ourselves to carry the entire “witnessing” load?

What if, instead, we brought whatever we had and simply gave God the reigns?

What if we didn’t enter into every conversation with an agenda?

What if we focussed on loving “non-believers” before we focused on converting them?

What if we just shared two small words of blessing? Would God maybe use that? Might he even multiply it?

I’m betting on yes.

*******************

This was written by Jon Jorgenson. You should really check out his blog for more awesome thoughts and inspiration, and follow him on Twitter for the same in 140 characters.

A blessing in disguise

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

You’ve heard it plenty of times, maybe recited it a few times too. It is such a simple, wonderful request, and pleases those who believe in free will and destiny, both.

Being granted the courage to change things that we can: Seems easy enough, and it’s very empowering to be granted the courage to make something happen!

The wisdom to know the difference: Picking your battles, knowing your limitations, maybe a little harder than the courage part, wisdom really doesn’t come easy, at least for me.

But that first part, “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”, wow that is tough! Maybe because it reminds us of our human condition, the fact that we aren’t all powerful, the fact that we can be vulnerable.

Recently enough I was stuck in a messy situation. It certainly inspired a lot of prayer, a lot of seeking answers, both above and on the ground. I was advised, “Pray on it”, “leave it up to God”.

“Sure”, I agreed, “I will”, and I did, but not with total conviction, because every time I would pray to God, “God, I know you will see and my family through, as you always have,” there would be a little thought in my head wondering, “…but what if things don’t go the way I want them to? I need them to?” Despite Him taking care of me for my entire life, I couldn’t have the faith this would go on. My “luck” would have to run out, surely.

How unbelievable (not in a good way) is our lack of faith sometimes, despite God’s track record with us?

Praying wasn’t giving me immediate help that would give me peace of mind. There was nothing that I could see that showed me everything was going to be ok. This meant a month of constant stress and worry. After all, what can be more stress-inducing than something you can’t change? And what can inspire more attempts to change something, than something you can’t change? This also meant searching for ways that I could try and solve things myself. How I could find a solution to the mess I got myself into.

I looked for humanly solutions, and maybe this is the peace of mind I needed: There was no solution, really, nothing I or anyone else could do. Finally, I arrived at that place where I just prayed and said, “God, I leave it up to you, and I know you’ll get me through”. I’m paraphrasing, it probably didn’t sound so sure at the time.

Sure, arriving at faith and trust in God as a last resort probably isn’t the best way to learn the lesson, but at least God somehow got me there.

Back to the point. So often we pray for something where we seek a solution. Help with something, protection from something. Maybe the best thing to pray for, to really focus on, is coming to terms with the fact that sometimes the response to that prayer is effectively, a “no”. Things will not work out how we wanted them to, because that is not how God intended them to. It isn’t a punishment, rather it is an experience that will teach us, make us stronger, and, at least eventually, bring us closer to God. Sometimes we have to be broken, to be made new.

Sure, our first feeling might be one of betrayal, or being let down, but down the line, whether it is a day later, a year later, or a decade later, we will look back and realise why it happened, and why, in the overall scheme of things, it needed to happen – to bring us closer to Him.

Next time you’re in need of help, and you close your eyes in prayer. Pray for what you want, or need, by all means. But really, above all I would say pray for the strength to get through your situation, no matter whether the result is what you hoped for, or not. Because one thing I’m sure about, is that God will take you safely through it, and maybe even make you stronger through it.

He certainly did with me.

24th May – It’s a date

It’s almost that sad time of the year, where we say goodbye to premier league football for all of two or three months. Unfortunately it’s a pretty dull run-in, in terms of competition for the title, and relegation, but there are still some crucial places to play for.

Teams positioned 8th-15th aren’t playing for anything themselves, but could play spoiler to some other team’s aspirations.

What is certain: Chelsea are champions

Automatic qualifiers to the Champions League group stage: Chelsea, Manchester City

The other Champions League teams: Arsenal, Manchester United

Europa League: Liverpool, Spurs, Southampton

Relegated: QPR, Burnley and either Hull, Newcastle, Sunderland.

So which games should you really not care about…

Aston Villa v Burnley: Villa are safe, Burnley are relegated.

Swansea v Crystal Palace: Swansea’s hopes for Europa League football went with their loss at City, Palace could compete for a top 10 finish, but what does that matter, eh?

Leicester v QPR: Other than trying to put an exclamation mark on the incredible finish to Leicester’s season, or stamp QPR’s place at the bottom of the table, nothing to see here.

Which games matter…

Arsenal v West Brom: Probably the least likely to matter as Arsenal need a draw vs Sunderland (tonight) to seal 3rd place and Champions League group stage action. It’s possible that Sunderland holds them to a draw, but West Brom is unlikely to manage the same.

Newcastle v West Ham: Newcastle have the worst goal difference of the three remaining relegation candidates (-25), but still, they play West Ham who have been in the worst form after some excitement earlier in the season. A draw won’t be enough if Hull win against United, a win sees them saved.

Stoke v Liverpool and Tottenham v Everton: 9th hosts 5th, and 6th hosts 10th, the closest matched of the remaining games, at least among the top sides. Tottenham have to win and hope Liverpool are held at Stoke, to qualify for the Europa League group stage. They could also draw with a Liverpool loss…by five goals.

A Liverpool win seals it for them, and a draw is enough if Spurs don’t win.

Manchester City v Southampton: Southampton’s goal difference is an incredible +23. Only two less than 4th place United, 14 and 19 better than Liverpool and Spurs, respectively.

This matters because if Liverpool draw, Spurs draw or lose, and Southampton win, they’ll jump into the Europa League group stage. A draw combined with a Spurs loss also sees them get into the 3rd qualifying round of the Europa League.

At the very worst, if they lose to City, they’ll get a 1st round qualifying match for the Europa League, but that of course means a long qualifying campaign.

Chelsea v Sunderland: Sunderland only need a point to stay a-Premier League-float. They have two games to get it in. Seems simple, right? Except that these games are against Arsenal and Chelsea.

However, check this form: Drew at Stoke, beat Southampton, beat Everton away, drew with hot hot hot Leicester. 8 points in 4 matches isn’t bad at all, unfortunately one mroe point may be too much for them.

Hull v Manchester United: The one to watch, even if United are already stuck with 4th place by the final weekend. The onus is on Hull to win, no other result will do.

Hull have won as many home matches (five) as United have lost, away, and while it probably isn’t likely, at least you can be sure they will be going all out for a win. And if United somehow have something to play for on the final day, it gets all the more interesting.

A 1st attempt: a selfless life

Good morning!

 

This is a 1st attempt of sorts. I am one of those people who has false-started a blog, several times. Each time, with varying conviction, saying that I will do it consistently, and each time, with unvarying results, never actually doing so.

 

Sounds like the latest old news, but it’s a 1st attempt because unlike previous rants and rambles I wrote, it isn’t about politics, sports, or some current event that doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. Instead, it’s about faith, specifically mine, or rather my journey in faith. Despite being 20 something, and the majority of that, identifying myself out loud as a Catholic, I’d say my conscious or active journey in faith is pretty young.

 

A friend, let’s call her “Balloon”, for obvious reasons (Reasons that are obvious to me, not to you. Don’t worry, I’m not being rude!), has been wonderful in encouraging me to share my thoughts (which I usually do with her, personally), and in a way the thought that I may disappoint her (she may roll her eyes at this), and in a bigger way, the inspiration I have felt this morning, have finally got me to put pen to paper. Or finger to keyboard, rather.

 

Sidenote: I was gifted this laptop recently, and to me, this is no coincidence.

 

This morning I was reading, “Our daily bread”, basically a devotional that I think is especially helpful if you are young or still green in your faith, and don’t know where to start to learn about God, or what will jog your prayers and reflections. Funnily enough, the part I’m about to share isn’t today’s, it’s from yesterday, which I failed to read. I’m still getting into my routine.

 

Titled, “Motivated by love” (thank you Bill Crowder), it shares the following,

 

“Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15. You could start from verse 11 though).

 

Then, the key part, the part that while I was sitting on the bus, just inspired me to write today, “Christ’s love is the greatest of all motivators. It causes those who follow Him to live for Him, not for themselves”. True selfnessness.

 

Important thing to remember, today and in future posts: I do not claim to be the above. I don’t claim to be entirely selfless, I have a long long way to go. I also don’t claim to be perfect or anywhere close. Thinking of becoming someone like what is described above, makes me incredibly happy, incredibly determined to better myself, and hope that those I love, everyone in the world even, could strive for the same.

 

What better life could there be than that lived for somebody else? Think about everyday examples, more earthly examples. Mothers and fathers who sacrifice so much of their time, their lives for their children. I don’t need to delve into that, you can think of people you know who live like this, people you’ve read about, seen on TV. They exist, and it’s hard to believe sometimes, that people can love someone so much, that they suppress their own desires, wants, needs, in order to do something for, help, uplift this person.

 

So what does that life look like? In short, for me, it’s selfless and it’s humble.

 

I have a good, living example of that humility. I will call him, “robes” (because I’m lame, and couldn’t think up a better nickname on the spot. If you know him, you’ll probably get it). Robes, is one of the most amazing people that I have the pleasure of having in my life (and there are a lot!), but I will focus on just this one aspect. He is a wonderful speaker, singer, leader. He is one of those people I just love to listen to. So, on a number of occasions, when he is done leading worship, I have gone up to him, and said, “Robes, that was awesome! You were so inpirational, and energetic today!”, and without missing a beat, he will just say, “it wasn’t me, it’s Him”. I’m paraphrasing, but really, that is it. I’m pretty sure there was no “Thank you” in there, even a half-hearted one, just absolutely taking zero credit, but for a sheepish semi-smile, and that amazes me.

 

In truth, I am one of those people who, when I compliment someone and they don’t take it well, brush it off, something like that, I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with you? Just take the compliment!”. Probably selfish of me, I want recognition for complimenting somebody else, which is strange. I promise I’m getting better at this.

 

Back to Robes, to me, that kind of response is beyond humility. It’s an example of living a life that is not for you, but for somebody else. Robes did a wonderful job. He inspired people, he filled them with joy, he uplifed them. Except he didn’t. He was a person who God did all of those things through, and what makes him special, is that he knows that, he’s comfortable with that. It’s not a begrudging selflessness, it’s a total (or pretty close to) awareness of where credit is due. He has been given gifts, we all have, and yes, he is using them in wonderful ways, but he knows who gave them to him, and he lives his life, and redirects praise, accordingly.

 

(Robes, if you read this, I hope you don’t scold me the next time you see me!)

 

I try to be more like that. I’m happy whenever people speak well of me, or something I do. I have a long way to go, but I’m increasingly aware, and increasingly able to remind myself, that the good that I do is not mine, and it is not for me.

 

Hopefully in small ways now, and bigger ways later in life, the life that I lead, the person that I am, is a great example of a follower of God.

 

This morning, as I sat on that bus, I was filled with amazement and a whole lot of happiness, just thinking of what it means to live a truly selfless life. I don’t think it’s something that any of us can ever achieve, in totality, but striving for that, getting and staying as close to that ideal as possible, is good enough.

 

I do want that life, and I’m working towards it. Hopefully you will notice that in me, if you meet me. Because really, what could be better than a life lived entirely for someone else? What could be better than a life lived for God? Live that life, and love what you do!

 

**************************************

 

I hope this touched something inside you, made you think, made you happy, made you feel inspired. Feel free to get back to me with thoughts, challenges, anything.

AFCON – the final round…before the next round

With the final group matches kicking off this afternoon (night on my side of the World), and with all 16 teams still in with a chance, here is what your team needs to do to progress to the knockout stages.

Group A

Republic of the Congo    4 points

Gabon      3

Equatorial Guinea    2

Burkina Faso     1

For the bottom two sides, it’s a case of “just win, baby”.

Despite being in 4th place, Burkina Faso could yet qualify, although only as runners up, with a win over Congo.

Hosts Equatorial Guinea know only a win will do to get them through.

The Congolese need only a point to qualify, and a win sees them top the group.

Gabon need just a point to go through, as they beat Burkina Faso in the 1st round of matches.

 

Group B

Tunisia      4

Cape Verde     2

Democratic Republic of the Congo  2

Zambia      1

Zambia have to beat Cape Verde (like the hosts, playing only in their 2nd tournament), and even that may not be enough should DRC beat Tunisia.

Cape Verde just need to better DRC’s result. If both sides draw, it will come down to whoever scores more goals in their draw.

If Tunisia draw and Cape Verde win by more than 1 goal, they top the group with Tunisia finishing second.

 

Group C

Senegal     4

Ghana      3

Algeria      3

South Africa     1

To the group of death, which has lived up to its name with only 1 of the 4 matches resulting in a draw (glares at Group D).

South Africa must win, and the scenarios get pretty interesting. A 2 goal win against Ghana sees them above Senegal and through, while a 1 goal win is only good enough if Algeria lose to Senegal.

For Algeria, a win sees them through, although only as runners up if Ghana wins too. A draw is enough if Ghana loses to South Africa.

Ghana can afford a draw if Algeria draw with South Africa. A win will see them top the group, unless Senegal wins, in which case they progress as runners up.

For Senegal, a draw is enough to go through, although not necessarily as group winners. They can even afford a loss, as long as Ghana draws with South Africa, or South Africa wins by 1 goal (and Senegal lose by 1).

 

 

Group D

Cote d’Ivoire     2

Cameroon     2

Mali      2

Guinea      2

From the group of death to the group of draw. We are in the sad position where a 3rd consecutive round of 1-1 draws would see 2 teams randomly selected to progress.

Still on the subject of draws, if one match ends in a higher scoring draw than the other, that pair of teams will go through. Go for 5-5, guys!

In the final round, Cote d’Ivoire play Cameroon and Mali play Guinea. Any team that wins, qualifies.

Basically, just hope for no draws!