23 July 2021


Sportsmen and women

by Matthew Betts

“At the Olympic Games, it isn't the most beautiful or strongest who are crowned, but those who compete.” - Aristotle, 5th Century BC

The Ancient Greeks decided six centuries before Christ that they would set up the Olympics in the city-state of Olympia. This was so they could bring together athletes from across Greece to compete against each other, as at this time, the country was made up of independent city states (oligarchies, one democracy or monarchies). Mythical heroes like Hercules were said to have taken part in the Olympics. In many ways, it gave them an identity as Greeks, so that when it came to the big Persian invasion a century later (Persia is in modern day Turkey), the states worked together rather than separately in defeating the big kingdom. 

Right now, the Tokyo Olympics (a descendent of the Olympics of Greece) are beginning, and these modern Olympics are bringing the world together once again – especially important when we still live with COVID-19. 

Thus today, I am going to reflect on sporting heroes around the world, how they help us in these difficult times, and why they are Pandemic Heroes. 

Why Pandemic Heroes? First, they are all risking their health by taking part in these events – especially as COVID-19 has not gone away. Secondly, they are all doing it because they have trained for it (sometimes for years), and they give us a bit of a boost when we watch their feats! Like how the Greeks saw their athletes - they are heroes. 

Athletes of any sport or country are at the top of their game and will often make us feel pride in the national team. In the UK, we often have a strange split between the home countries, but if one team remains, parts of the rest of our United Kingdom will rally around the winning team. 

Recently, England fans were able to enjoy the success of their home team in the Euro 2020. I must be honest; I have not followed a team for many years (I prefer rugby), but growing up, I supported Manchester United for many years. They were my local team and my grandparents supported them. 

However, I always enjoy watching and supporting England whenever they play – but this time, it was even more exciting than normal! It was also a family event for us this time: my son and daughter enjoyed it too, especially with all the euphoria before and afterwards. Equally, this very special England team who got so far, were also showing us all how to be noble and professional throughout the tournament with their gestures. One big gesture was the taking of the knee:

"Ahead of today's game, our players will once again take the knee as a show of solidarity with the Black community, including members of our squad who themselves continue to suffer abuse on a regular basis. Please support them, just as we know you will once the game begins." – Football Association

In addition, the Captain, Harry Kane wore a rainbow armband to “stand in allyship with LGBTQ+ communities around the world." Finally, the manager, Gareth Southgate proved time and time again how to be noble, professional, magnanimous and a gentleman. 

Without trying to get too political here, their message is about equality. Everyone has a right to enjoy the freedoms of this world - and they are telling us that it is equality for all that they believe in. Indeed, you only have to search for names like Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford (two of the England footballers) to see all the good they do in utilising their influence and money. These footballers are people I want my children to look up to and emulate. Heroes in a Pandemic. No finer example.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Our world is changing and like the England team and our Olympians, we must be accepting of everyone, and I believe that sport brings us together to show what humans can do together! It’s a shame that people can turn to hate when they don’t agree with gestures of equality and hope, but if more of us to turn to love – all the better. 

Olympians and football players – and all the sports stars are all Pandemic Heroes for showing everyone what it is to love your fellow human regardless of perceived differences – and doing it when things are still not as safe as we would have liked. 

"Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all." – Proverbs

Let us pray...
All peoples have their origin in you and it is your will
to gather them as one family in yourself.
Fill the hearts of all people with your love and the
desire to ensure justice for all their brothers and
By sharing the good things of the earth, may we
secure justice and equality for every human
being, an end to all division, and a human
society built on love and peace.
We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." - Matthew 5