I bumped into a video and i was intrigued . I had to dig deeper and what i found inspired this short article. In the video , the now late South Africa Pastor NJ Sithole declared, ” We support Pirates, The Pastors team, the team in the bible!” (My translation). He then proceeded to lead a song, “Wamemeza Ezekiel…”. His deep voice reverberated in the packed hall and the women congregates joined in. It turned out to be a short inspiring gospel song. I dare say no one in this world sings a gospel song like our sisters down South. What a song, short , sweet and spiritually uplifting ! It left me wishing for more.
The Pastor had borrowed his assertion from Ezekiel Chapter 37. The whole chapter is loaded with meaning, inspiration and hope.. ” Son of man, can these bones live.?.” It is a message of restoring a dead situation back to life. ” Prophesy to the dry bones , make them live,” God tells Ezekiel. And true to His word, the bones lived. What a powerful chapter and i think it speaks to many people who find themselves devoid of hope. Any situation can be restored because God’s mercies are new everyday!
But let us go back to football. The good Pastor used the sermon to also declare his support for Orlando Pirates and make his audacious claim that the team is mentioned in the bible. He was borrowing heavily on the Orlando Pirates symbol of crossed bones and a skull and as he led the singing he crossed his hands on his chest, the Pirates symbol to to endorse his assertion. A young beautiful lady, clad in Pirates colours later did a video , bringing the Pastor’s message back to life! That caught everyone eye and ear and i am sure a few young men decided to support Pirates.
However the video was not without its critics. For the religious purists, this was heresy and blasphemy. To them this was simply unacceptable , a contemptuous attempt to link his football preferences with the powerful chapter. To them the Pastor was reducing a powerful message to football banter!
I appreciate these concerns but i also accept that the critics missed the humour. They missed the banter, banter which those in the congregation might have enjoyed. Looked at differently, i think the Pastor might have pulled a masterstroke, the sermon became unforgettable. So unforgettable that here i am today writing about it. And to get a better understanding i had to read the whole chapter. So yes , while it was banter, i am sure it has made many people visit the powerful chapter and in a way, his mission was accomplished.
While i do not accept that Pirates were mentioned in that Chapter, i would be crazy to think so, but i also accept that many football clubs have religious backgrounds although many have become more secular. Clubs like Celtics founded in St. Marys Church Hall in 1887 and Southampton nicknamed the Saints because they were formed in St. Mary’s Church of England hall. These two examples , there are many more, clearly show the link between religion and football and we can forgive our good Pastor for being a bit overzealous.
And yes back home we had St. Paul’s, champions in 1966 which was formed by Father Davies. I bet as he motivated his boys to clinch the Championship so many years ago, he also had a few motivational verses to quote. I have also seen a banner, ” God loves Dynamos, he made the sky blue..”. That is an interesting claim from one creative member of the 7 million club.
Lest we forget, there was once mighty Zimbabwe Saints before power struggles brought the club to its knees. They had a song and it was a religious song, ” When the Saints go marching in, When the Saints go marching in, Lord , how i want to be in that number, when the Saints go Marching in….!” The loyal fans sang it with gusto and time and time again the journalists came up with that simple headline.. ” Saints March On!” .
Those were the days, the glory years of Chauya Chikwata. There demise left a gaping hole in the Zimbabwe football fraternity. What a shame!
The claim by Pastor NJ Sithole may have offended a number of religious conservatives, it might have sounded preposterous, overzealous, even blasphemous but it should be taken in the spirit of banter. However the link between football and religion cannot be dismissed, many clubs started as church boys club. I find that fascinating not blasphemous!