Tuesday, 6 December 2016

It’s a freezing cold Saturday morning at the local football club

On hard, frost-laden grass, two junior clubs are lined up against each other ready for the contest. Breath emanating from wind-blushed cheeks turns to mini clouds of vapour in the freezing air, ascending in the same direction as their hopes and dreams as these aspiring stars shiver with a potent mixture of freezing air and adrenaline. Parents watch from the touchline, scarf-laden and hands in pockets. The whistle blows.

I think at this point I should admit that I don’t really enjoy football and I don’t support any team. I was only ever interested in the business side. Then one day one of my students explained to me that there is much more to football than just the games played, the ticket sales, the revenue streams and the merchandising. There is a human element - a heart and soul - and that is what I had been missing.

He explained that a team is the most human of structures. With its inherent human faults it battles on, then it loses, but it won’t give up, so it battles on again, it loses again, and still it battles on, and next time it wins through, and then yes it wins again! On and on the football ‘dance’ continues with faith and passion! Players, management and supporters together morph in to the collective heart and soul of a team striving to make their hopes and dreams a reality.

A few days ago the hopes and dreams of Brazil's Chapecoense football team, so positive and so buoyant, ended on the side of a mountain in Columbia. Millions of people around the world found themselves emotionally in touch with the Chapecoense heart and soul which clearly continues to live and touch people’s lives, and long may it do so.

As a teacher of ethics I have often looked for answers to life’s tragedies in philosophy, but I don’t ever find them. Are they not there or have I just not come across them yet? Should philosophy be a tool used to uncover life’s mysteries, or an instrument through which known elements of life can be explained?

I have learned from others who have been through profound tragedies that if you have to get wet in the storm then you should be determined to enjoy the smell of the wet grass and the freshness of the air which accompanies the storm. What I like in this approach is that it is positive, personal and self-contained. It does not require any well-meaning but ineffectual kind words from others. It is bespoke and self-determined.

I don’t know how the families, friends and supporters of those who died in the crash will deal with their personal tragedy. However I do hope that they can connect to the positive outpouring of all those who mourn with them, and that this will nourish them in a way which is right for them. I also hope that next Saturday two more teams - those most human of structures - are out on the field in the freezing cold, adrenaline pumping, parents and friends shivering on the touchline, and that the dance will go on and on.

This blog is dedicated to the Chapecoense team.

Graham Harman-Baker

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