The World Cup Football finals is the most watched event in the world each time it is played! One out of nine people in the World watch it! Today – July 15, 2018 – we have another one: Croatia V France! I am rooting for Croatia! I have been doing almost-daily devotions starting from World Cup 2018 Football games via Facebook, Google Plus and WordPress!
I recall my earliest TV watching experience to the Football World Cup. In the year 1986, as a 11 year old I recall going to the home of our neighbor in Vellore Town, Uncle Wilson (my friend Ben Suresh’s dad, now with Jesus), to watch the World Cup Football Final 1986 between Argentina and West Germany. Earlier that year, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in a Blessing Youth Mission retreat in Ranipet. Though Cricket has been my fave game all through, I still haven’t forgotten the closing minutes of that 1986 Final – a final dubbed as the most exciting World Cup Football final ever – which Argentina won under Deigo Maradona, 3-2.I remember talking about this final when I made a point from the Word of God when I preached in the Youth Service of the Full Gospel Assembly of God, Indira Nagar, Bangalore, years later.
I was still in Ida Scudder School when West Germany won the Final of 1990 World Cup by beating Argentina through a late Brehme penalty. In Scudder school where I was a student for 9 long years (4th to 12th), I wrote in the Kaleidoscope, our School mag, about his final. I recall writing a poem on the 1990 World Cup. One line went this way: “As Brehme drove home the late penalty/There was joy among the Beckenbauer bombers, aplenty!” In Scudder school I preached my first sermon from stage and also was part of a lunchtime fellowship. Those were the early stages of my life when God would mold me to wrap Bible Truth around interesting sports events.
I was in Allahabad Agricultural Instistue as a B. Tech. student during the 1994 World Cup Final. I wrote a long poem on the final and sent to our the local newspaper, The Hitavada. I was thrilled to see that poem published. I don’t even have a copy of that hand-written poem now! The paper cutting was filed in a dark brown file and that file is now missing! It had over 50 Letters to the Editor of mine published by newspapers like The Hindu and magazines like The Sportstar over the years! In Agricultural Institute I led Bible Studies for fellow students in hostel rooms and went along with my seniors to do the same in other colleges in the town of Allahabad in eastern Uttar Pradesh. I recall talking about Roberto Baggio’s heart-breaking penalty kick miss in the Cup Final 1994 and how the Bible never missed it, when it came to predictions regarding the future. My days in Agricultural Institute. were the days during which God was impressing upon my heart to wrap Bible Truth around contemporary events of interest. I saw Billy Graham do it in his book, World Aflame, a book I read in New Hostel Room No. 45 in Agricultural Institute!
I recall watching the 1998 World Cup Final which France won in the home uncle Charles (now with Jesus) in Bangalore. I was a Bible College student in Southern Asia Bible College then and had gone to his house that weekend to stay back and watch the Final. Zidane scored two headed goals in that game which gave France its first World Cup win. “I was so hungry to score one goal in the World Cup Final, that I made it two!” So said Zidane. That has repeatedly served as an illustration when I talk about hunger for the things of God we must have! During my Bible College days I discovered that Apostle Paul wrapped basic truths of Scripture even around quotes of pagan writers (in Acts 17 in his speech at Athens). So I resolved that it was something I would also do. And the World Cup history provided me with lots of interesting events to wrap Bible Truth around!
I watched the 2002 World Cup Final with my wife in Trivandrum where we were missionaries with Blessing Youth Mission. It was then that I wrote an article titled, “Bible Lessons from the Football World Cup,” for the mag I edited for Blessing Youth Mission, “Missionary Kids” (which later became Arrows). Oliver Kahn (the Man of the 2002 Cup) carried Germany to that World Cup Final, I recall. Post that Cup, there were news reports about his affair with a Bar girl when his wife was pregnant. “Double life with a disco girl” – that was one headline. Then Kahn said, “I myself know how dumb and stupid what I have done is.” I have used this story as an illustration to promote purity when I preached to the Google Generation.
I watched the 2006 Cup Final in Hyderabad the city I landed up in to start Grabbing De Google Generation 4m Gehenna Mission (G4 Mission) while also working for a certain call centre to support myself and my little family. I recall writing an article for the G4 Mission magazine, The Days of Your Youth, based on the exciting semifinal between Germany and Italy – the most exciting game of that edition of World Cup. Late in that game, the Italian coach made a flurry of substitutions which ensured Italy won that game in extra-time without the game going into the penalty shootouts, a thing Italy was wary of. After mentioning that I went on to talk about the greatest substitution ever – that of Jesus Christ on the Cross for your sins and mine. I was inspired to write the poem on Zidane head-butting Materazzi with the gospel at the end which is now part of my book, The Good News for the Google Generation, then. That book can be read online here: http://www.scribd.com/
(on page 129 is the Zidane poem). During December 2005 I stood in Cyber Gateway in Hitec city to speak to a bunch of young professionals (call centre folk) in an informal setting as part an outreach effort of the NLAG Hyderabad’s Youth Alive. I began my Gospel presentation to that boisterous crowd with a story about Germany’s coach of 2006 Cup team who initially tried to coach Germany staying in the USA and how God came near during the first Christmas and that caught their attention.
When I watched the 2010 World Cup Final I was back to ‘fulltime’ ministry, having quit my job with the HSBC GSC, as the Lord was gracious to raise Indians to support our ministry to the Google Generation. Post that Final I wrote a poem that started with a certain “Jesus” who played for Spain in that final as a Substitute. That was fodder for yet another poem that wrapped the Gospel around a World Cup Final. That poem is also found in my book, The Goodnews for the Google Generation (a book I talked about earlier in this post)! In fact I wrote an article, “Bible Lessons from the Unforgettable Moments of the 2010 World Cup” and that article which had a anti-porn point starting with a story of a Paraguay female fan who wanted to strip if the team she supported won. I have used the Luis Suarez Hand of God injury-time incident in the Ghana-Uruguay Quarter Final from that World Cup at the end of many of my Gospel messages where I have called youth to come to Jesus shunning procrastination.
In the year 2014 when the Finals moved to Brazil, I watched it with my son, Dale Nathan, then 10 year old, teaching his nuances of Football, the way I taught him nuances of Cricket watching the 2011 Cricket World Cup Finals with him. Through this event I ran devotions on Facebook which started with interesting events from this World Cup including the Luis Suarez biting event which is here: https://www.facebook.com/…/a.420280954711…/687270011345873/…). 2014 was the year when I wrapped up my Doctoral program in Southern Asia Bible College by God’s grace.
Before we go to bed, we need to do self-examination, my spiritual mentors have taught me. But we also need to do an eagle-eye self-examination of our life’s progress. Evaluating our growth, once in four years, is a good exercise that will spur us to greater heights God has for us.
(Duke Jeyaraj, an Engineer turned Doctor of Ministry grad, is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission. This is a ministry to presentday people funded by Indians blessed by Duke’s writings and messages. Find out more by liking www.facebook.com/googleduke or visiting www.dukev.org