You’ll never walk alone: Can football ever replace religion?

Like religion, football involves ritual and communal participation, holy places, icons, and distinctive garb. But unlike religion, it rarely if ever holds you accountable, writes Eli Gottlieb

Monday 26 July 2021 09:14
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<p>Supporting a football team gives you the feeling of being part of a big family</p>

Supporting a football team gives you the feeling of being part of a big family

My calendar used to be full of recurring appointments that gave order to my week – from staff meetings to parents’ evenings . Some events, like family dinners, occurred with such clockwork regularity that they didn’t even need a calendar entry. In the more distant past, my Orthodox Jewish upbringing punctuated my week with other kinds of fixtures, such as Friday sunsets and Saturday morning synagogue services. But it’s been years since I attended synagogue for anything other than a family bar mitzvah, and my relaxed approach to Sabbath observance has made me less attentive to nightfall.

Today, my calendar is sparsely populated. Since leaving a C-suite job to work as a consultant, I have no staff meetings. Since the kids finished school, I have no parents’ evenings. These days, only one kind of recurring appointment remains: the calendars I import from football websites listing all of Liverpool and England’s fixtures.

It was only while teaching in Washington, DC, however, that I noticed football colonising spaces in my life vacated by religion. I guess it was a desire for company that first drew me to the Queen Vic pub and LFCDC (Liverpool Football Club, DC). But my weekly attendance at live screenings of Liverpool’s Premier League matches with Washingtonian fans soon took on a more ritual aura.

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