People are always trying to use sport to settle differences – often political ones. From the use of various Olympic Games to show the host nation in a favourable light, through East Germany’s factory farming of athletes to Harold Wilson’s claiming the 1966 World Cup for Labour and Alec Salmond’s attendance at last year’s Wimbledon final, the framing – unlike the sport itself – lacks subtlety, grace and power.
The (probably one-off, never to be repeated) coincidence that this World Cup’s finalists are the native countries of the current and emeritus Popes is rather delicious. Personally, I’d like the pre-match entertainment to be provided by a Father Ted-style over 75s five a side competition with Benedict and Francis as opposing captains.
It isn’t only football on which their Holy Fathers disagree. Francis, for example, favours liberation theology – while Benedict will have no truck with it. Would anyone seriously think that victory for one side or another was the result of divine intervention?
Step forward Conservapedia. The self-styled ‘trustworthy encyclopedia’ has been comparing countries’ records on equal marriage with their team’s progress in the World Cup. Conservapedia’s soccer experts are unsurprised that ‘Britain’ didn’t get very far, nor that the Netherlands were unable to win their penalty shoot-out. ‘The results are precisely as expected,’ says site founder Andy Schlafly. If Schlafly has predicted Sunday’s winner, he isn’t yet saying. But it might be worth stopping by the site on Monday for their detailed theological analysis.