God has shown strength with an outstretched arm;-Luke 1:52-54 (edited for inclusive pronouns)
God has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
The Creator has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
Apparently the Mother of God is a fan of the Moroccan football team. Yesterday, Morocco celebrated their first trip to a World Cup semifinal, the first African nation and the first Arab nation to reach a World Cup semifinal. The lowly are lifted up. Our souls are filled with joy.
Podcast host and actor Brendan Hunt recently observed that the greatest predictor of whether a team reaches semifinals is whether they have been to a semifinal before. The last time a team reached the semifinals that had never been to a semifinal before was in the year 2002, two-thirds of Jesus’ lifetime ago. In that tournament, South Korea and Turkey both advanced and played a stunning third place game that was a formative moment in the summer before high school (coincidentally, the same summer I was called to be a pastor). The World Cup is stacked in favor of the winners, down to the design of the draw spreading out the top 7 teams during the group stage.
Notably, Morocco is the team with the greatest number of players born outside the country they represent, with more than half born outside its borders. This includes the great penguin dancer Achraf Hakimi, born in Madrid to Moroccan parents, trained in the youth academy at Real Madrid, and now playing for PSG. Over half the Moroccan team plays in Europe. Morocco’s success is inextricable from the greed of the Eurocentric neocapitalist sports entertainment industry. As Michael Moore said in the 2005 film Bowling for Columbine, “they’ll sell you the rope to hang themselves if they think they’ll make a buck on it.” The European club soccer empire has hung themselves and made a buck on it.
Most likely, the empire will rise to rule us again. But for now, we glimpse an upside down world in which this tournament really, truly, is for everyone. It is the whole world’s game.
We love the image of the powerful brought down from their thrones–not only because we have never seen Cristiano Ronaldo’s features in exactly that expression, but because the loss of the powerful is inextricable, in Mary’s song, from care for the marginalized. Excess is erased and sufficiency abounds.
Morocco’s win reignites the hope that we can transform that Babylon of governance, FIFA. It also gives us hope, at least symbolically, that FIFA may yet be pressured to compensate the families of workers who died to create this tournament and its idolatrous temples.
The underdog’s win feels so good because it is as Mary said. We don’t tear down the powerful from their thrones for the sake of tearing them down, but because it is a prerequisite for filling the hungry with good things, for restoring the most basic of dignities to the most marginalized of communities. May it be so.
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