Cloning Jamie Carragher, Lionel Messi’s mistakes, It’s all Wayne Rooney’s fault!
‘Cloning Jamie Carragher’, ‘Lionel Messi’s mistakes’ and ‘It’s all Wayne Rooney’s fault’ are just three of the issues that BRF’s Who Let The Dads Out? founder Mark Chester reflects on in his new book, The Soul of Football. An unusual book for a Christian publisher like BRF to be publishing, you might think? But have you ever wondered if the language of football could be used to explore the deeper issues of life and faith?
Mark Chester is ideally placed to do just that. In a book of two halves, Mark kicks off by telling his own football story—a story of hope rising and hope dashed, of winning and losing, of an inspirational football manager, of serious injury and of the very personal impact of one of the worst football stadium disasters in history, at Hillsborough. It’s a tale inextricably linked to the story of his family, which features a migration to a foreign land, a television appearance, some intriguing graffiti, a Bride of the Year competition and a call from God.
In the second half, ‘Soccer Soul’, Mark weaves together his football and Christian experience and uses the language of football, learnt so well over the years, to begin to explore 15 key areas of the Christian faith—things like the craziness of cloning a team of Jamie Carraghers. Such a team might be highly successful defensively, but in attack they would be woeful, game after game. Diversity in unity is key to any team’s success.
Lionel Messi does make mistakes in a game but his Barcelona team mates don’t throw a strop with him. They work together to rectify the mistakes whenever possible, because active forgiveness within a team is essential for success.
And as for Wayne Rooney, well, is it really his fault (or the fault of other, sometimes wayward, sports or pop stars) if impressionable young people follow unsuitable paths in life? Or is it down to each of us to set an example in the way we train, play and talk about our faith?
Football is a language that is understood by billions the world over. Mark’s hope for the book is that it will be a channel to open discussion about faith with football fans far and wide.
Football offers great enjoyment, whether to schoolkids playing in a park with jumpers as goalposts or to crowds watching a vital game in one of our mega-stadia. Winning seems to bring the most happiness, but, for those who look deeper, football offers more—a chance to contribute to a team; an opportunity to improve on one's best, to win by playing the right way, to be tested by the challenge the opposition provides; and the possibility of learning lessons in the present for use in the future. This book gets beneath the surface of football and reminds us that we need to get beneath the surface of life, too. Revd John K. Boyers, Chaplain, Manchester United
Chester's warmth, honesty, humility and good humour shine through this book, which is a truly captivating blend of wisdom and homely anecdotes. I recommend it highly.
Peter Lupson, author of Thank God for Football (SPCK, 2010)
Read a sample chapter of The Soul of Football
Mark Chester is a writer and speaker. He is the founder of Who Let The Dads Out?, a movement of churches reaching out to fathers and their children, and works for BRF to support the growth of the movement. He is married to Su and, with their two children, Megan and Billy, they worship at Hoole Baptist Church in Chester. Mark still plays football as often as his body allows, hits a golf ball badly, jogs reluctantly and swims slowly.