NEIL BONNAR: There is too much praying on football pitches

The Bolton News: Neil Bonnar Neil Bonnar

PRAYING is everywhere in football.

Whenever you turn on a match there are players either crossing themselves or looking up to the heavens to make contact with a deceased love one.

It never used to happen, so where has it come from?

Watching the Atletico Madrid v AC Milan game on TV the other night, one player after the next on both teams touched the ground and crossed themselves as they entered the field of play.

It looked synchronised, visibly spectacular, as if it had been practised until the two sets of players had mastered the timing to perfection.

That game wasn’t alone. You barely seem to get a player entering the field anymore without them touching the ground then touching the four points of an imaginary cross on their chests as they return to an upright position.

It is all well and good players being religious but do they really have to show it at a football match?

The thing about football is that once one person does something it has a tendency to catch on – the staged goal celebration, the use of the phrase “back stick”, the huddle.

So once one player touched the ground and crossed himself it was only a matter of time before it snowballed.

It doesn’t happen in other jobs so why in football?

Much as football players like to think they are special, they’re not. They’re just ordinary people doing a job to earn money like all of us.

You don’t get chairmen of multinational companies touching the ground and crossing themselves before going into meetings.

You don’t get journalists pointing to the skies and praying when they come up with an inspirational headline.

So why in football?

While the sentiment is admirable, is a football field really the place to show it?

They say football is a religion, but it’s not a platform for religion.

What next, a goal celebration simulating a group of religious types knocking on the doors of underwhelmed householders to sell them a religious booklet?

Here’s a thought. Why don’t players enter a field of play by remaining upright at all times, their hands by their sides, do their jobs for 90 minutes, celebrate a goal by congratulating each other and then depart the field of play, after which they could go to a church and pray in private?

Maybe they wouldn’t be as keen knowing that millions of people weren’t watching them.

That may sound a little over-cynical and we can only pray it’s not true.

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