Soccer: the new Religion


You find yourself sitting, bent over, hoping, fantasizing, dreaming.... praying that nothing goes wrong. You are consumed in the moment, suspended from the immediate world around you to a place where faith is all you have and all you can control. Belief is what keeps you optimistic but identity is what keeps you connected. Then, ninety minutes later, it is gone. The praying ceases, and you see yourself again in the exact same chair, in the exact same place as you were ninety minutes ago. What is this? What is this "moment?" What makes us look beyond ourselves? It is a game. It is the world's game. It is soccer. 

This summer, we will once again be witnesses to the ultimate phenomenon - World Cup soccer. Played every four years, this event has grown to uncommon heights. Millions upon millions of viewers anxiously await the occasion with fervent excitement. Without a doubt, the World Cup has evolved into a spectacle that now encompasses both the idea of sport and ritual.

What is it about soccer that creates these emotions and feelings found in events like the World Cup? Well, there is a simple response to this. Soccer is no longer just a sport but a religion. To be specific, it is a *
civil religion. According to author Jordi Xifra, the term "civil religion"refers to a religion that demonstrates both the moral and spiritual values of a community or modern society. It is meant to uphold the political and social culture of a people. It involves myths, symbols of popular devotion, and public rituals. In light of this, civil religion stresses identity amongst a people.

 Engaging the idea of soccer as a religion, specific case studies are presented. The studies span five different continents: South America (Argentina), Europe (Italy), Asia (India), Africa (Tanzania), and North America (Mexico). Through these "close-ups" on soccer culture around the globe, the idea of religion will be explored in a very concrete and interesting manner. In South America, Diego Maradona has transformed himself from a mere soccer player into a national symbol of worship. For Italians, soccer  is a product of religious intervention. In India's case, British morals and ethics were reinforced through the religion of soccer. Amongst the Tanzanians, mystical spells and rituals are as essential to soccer as practice is. Finally, Mexicans incorporate Catholicism into their viewing of soccer. 

Ultimately, through all of this analysis, one critical question will be answered: "How and to what extent has soccer evolved into a religious experience for its fans and spectators?"

*If you would like to read an academic article about soccer as a religion, then click here.