I reckon Saturday Social Soccer could be the beginning of world peace, and a good example of the Kingdom of God in action. Too big a call? You be the judge.
Around the start of the world cup, Croz and Clarey decided that since soccer was all the rage (“that soccer is so hot right now”) we should get a few guys together to have a kick each Saturday. I think the week we started there were 6 or 7 of us (mostly ex-Whitleans).
The week after, we had a few more. The week after that, a few more again. As the weeks went on, and word spread, different people turned up each week, friends of friends or friends of friends of friends. Attendances have fluctuated the whole time: people turn up when they can, and don’t when they can’t (too hungover, busy, or simply don’t want to).
But what quickly emerged too was that this was not an invite-only affair. Within the first week or two, we would join up with others who were already playing, or who wandered past wanting to play. Just random people going past: often they were overseas students with nothing much to do who were wandering around watching the games. They could go from passive observers to active participants with a nod of the head. It was completely and utterly inclusive, no questions asked.
This week, only three of us turned up initially. People came in dribs and drabs, ones and twos mostly, to join in. Soon we had too many for one game, so we split into two. So we were outnumbered, not calling the shots if you will. The sense was that there was no ‘we’, no Whitleans and ‘others’, just people enjoying each others’ company and skills.
And the inclusive nature of the exercise only improved the sense of joy created in its living out. There was, and is, no fear of the other, of the stranger, even when they “look different”. There is a unifying factor in what they call ‘the world game’ that means that there is enough in common for the rest to fall away. There are no language barriers (which is good, because many who turn up can hardly speak English), no reason for grudges or anything else to separate. There is usually mutual respect, even when there is a gulf of culture.
It also fits in perfectly with Open Space principles: passion bounded by responsibility. Whoever comes are the right people. Whenever it starts is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. When it’s over, it’s over. And the self-organizing of it all is quite amazing. People just make it happen, even make potentially contentious decisions (like who is on whose team, where the goals are placed and how large they are, when we start and when we finish) on behalf of the group, without demarcating who is the “leader” or “captain” or whatever. Considering this happens completely naturally, yet without disagreement, it’s a surprising thing.
And there’s grace in there too: we rarely mark the boundaries, so it’s a matter of conjecture when the ball goes out of bounds and who brings it in. Or who decides when it’s a goal and when it’s not. There have been no arguments, no argy-bargy, just a go-with-the-flow attitude that means that even when one side is disadvantaged, no-one argues or gets upset.
By modelling the inclusive, nonviolent love of God, this is getting closer to the living out of the Kingdom of God. It’s providing a concrete, positive example of cross-cultural harmony in action, and as such modelling to the rest of the world what things could be like.
Now all we have to do is get Hezbollah and Israel playing soccer on Saturdays at Princes Park. One o’clock. Bring a ball or your Aussie top.