Analysis: RONALD CHINKU
THERE is a ‘notion of prayers’ which has gripped our football and has gradually become symbolic with Zambian football. This practice is not only being practised at club level, but at all the national teams as well.
I am compelled to talk on this issue because it has created a long-lasting concept that God indeed does have a hand in football matches, and an influence on individual players too. I do not know who started this culture, but it has spread like wild fire.
Most coaches, if not all, have joined the orchestra. There is praying in training, before, during and after competitive games. Almost all football clubs in this country are part of this phenomenon.
In sports psychology, the belief to pray is said to be associated with the “fear of losing games”, which is lack of mental strength. There is a saying that ‘winners see what they want to happen, losers see what they are afraid may happen’. The polarisation of this belief that God does indeed influence teams to win a major competition such as a league title or cup tournament can unmistakenly be pointed to a new growing number of pastors.
This new breed of pastors, who have emerged on our streets and the neighbourhoods has seen the vulnerability of the coaches and the players, and quickly entered the lucrative football market. I know without any doubt that their sermons, when teams are in camps, are not for free.
In fact a close associate of mine, who is an administrator in one of the Super Division clubs in the FAZ MTN league, confided in me. He told me his club engaged a pastor who conducts sermons and prayers every time the team is having a competitive game on the weekend. The pastor was even put on the club payroll.
I am not saying players must not worship God, no, but they must find time when they are not having games.
Let them take their families and go to their respective churches or mosques, like most of us do.
It is absurd to think the Almighty God will spend time on answering prayers on football matters, when worldwide so many people in most countries are facing not only wars but ethnic cleansing, ie Syria, Myanmar and Yemen where mostly children have been killed, others left maimed and millions suffering from malnutrition.
All I am saying is that religion and football are two different and independent institutions from each other. There is no way the two can be bridged together.
Early in the 19th century, football was played as a social game, and that was purely entertainment to society. In the 21st century, football is still played in a social set-up but has become a billion-dollar industry.
Players are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per week, with transfer fees going for over hundred millions of dollars.
Religion has a completely different objective. The reason we go to church to worship God is to acquire the ultimate promise of inheriting long-lasting life, or going to heaven; this is dependent on the teachings of different doctrines of religious congregations.
Therefore, winning games or trophies cannot and must not be associated with God’s influence. It is misleading or misdirected.
It is a wrong notion and belief, which must be discouraged. The fact that we see Lionel Messi or other players raise their arms pointing up and looking to the sky after scoring a goal should not be interpreted as though God assists them to score. Some of these gestures are just habits or customs that have been copied or developed as a way of expression.
Sport is science
Football, like any other sports disciplines, is science. It is about anatomy, physiology, sports psychology and sports nutrition, ie fitness is about increasing the functional capacity of those organs that are associated with sport; like the heart, the lungs and the blood transportation system.
The learning of skill and tactics is associated with variation and the proportion on the rate of repetitions.
Football has been played for over 100 years, and for goodness sake do not try to re-invent the wheel of this game.
It is, therefore, hypothetical for coaches to advance God’s influence whenever their teams emerge victorious over their opponents. According to Leonardo da Vince, “coaches who are enamored of coaching without the application of science as a basis, are like a captain of a ship or pilot who goes at work without radar or compass.
“He will absolutely have no idea where he is going, and will not reach his destination.” A coach is a scientist, and he is a practical individual. Hence, a coach is regarded as being a multi-talented individual.
He must possess the teaching skills of an educator, the expert knowledge of anatomy and physiology, administrative skills of a business executive and the counselling wisdom of a psychologist.
Most importantly, in football there are scientific coaching principles, which are basic guidelines that enable the coach to drive his players to the level of competitiveness.
It is a physical and educational process which develops a complex sports performance by means of contents, methods and organisational measures corresponding with specific group’s aims and objectives.
Within these principles, we get the terms of loading which are: (i) Intensity: which is a degree of effort per time unit.
(ii) Volume: which marks the time an exercise or training session lasts: volume represents a quantity level.
(iii) Interval: this is the recovery time; it can be complete or incomplete recovery (iv) Density: is the relationship between load and recovery, i.e. the principle of gradual overload, the principle of gradual development, the principle of specificity, the principle of variation, the principle of individuality, etc. Over and above, sports science is on the firm foundation that players and athletes bodies are obedient to the law of physics.
My argument is that it is very illogic to assume that God applies favours to one team, to emerge victorious over another team.
God has never been and will never be a divisive factor among his people. “We are all his children.”
I am therefore appealing to the Football Association of Zambia to come forward in terms of capacity building for all coaches.
FAZ must in the not so distant future organise a workshop specifically on sports psychology. All coaches need to acquire the knowledge on how to psych up their players mentally, i.e. relaxation, imagery, concentration and positive affirmations.
This is the only best way to build mental strength on players and of course on athletes as well.
The author, a football coach, has trained in clubs in Swaziland besides tutoring National Assembly, Kabwe Warriors and Lusaka Dynamos locally.