I don’t ‘do’ football. Generally speaking. It’s not really something that bothers me that much. Generally speaking. I don’t ‘get’ it or its weird rules. Generally speaking. So, why is it that over the past couple of weeks I’ve voluntarily donned a football shirt, on more than one occasion, and found myself not only fairly engrossed in what’s being relayed from the pitch onto the screen, but celebrating with team and supporters alike AND even on a few occasions saying what the commentators say, before they do (I kid you not! Alan and Gary… I’m here for you ;o) )
But, why? What has made this different? Is it that we live in a small country? Is it that it gives us something to talk about with the people we meet on the street? Or, is it a wee reminder that sometimes, dreams can come true?
Despite my new-found passion and enthusiasm (which, let’s face it, may have a shorter shelf life than a pint of milk), I don’t see Northern Ireland walking away with the big trophy but, what I do see is a team returning home having shown the rest of the world that even in the most unlikely circumstances, the impossible can become possible. And that, friends is a message of hope. Is there anything more inspiring and encouraging than seeing hopes fulfilled?
What an incredible inspiration this has been for all of us and a real lesson for the next generation as we seek to inspire them to follow their dreams. But of course, there’s more to it than that. Though a relatively new follower of football, I’m certain that dreaming isn’t enough. The ‘green and white army’ as they are commonly known, have not got to where they are now, in the final sixteen of a competition that many thought would have been too much for them, simply by dreaming. They had a dream, but boy have they worked for it. They’ve planned, they trained, they’ve practised and they’ve set out to achieve their goal (s) (literally and metaphorically!)
Whatever the outcome of the match on Saturday, Northern Ireland have done themselves proud. What’s more, they’ve shown us all that with the right attitude and effort, if we put our minds to it and focus on the finish line, if we are willing to give it our all, it’s amazing what we can achieve.
As a parent, I think one of the things I most want my children to understand and strive for as they think about their future, is to love what they do and to work at it with all their hearts. A verse from Colossians that has really struck me throughout all of this, is:’Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.’ The players have given their all, doing something they love, not half-heartedly participating, but truly working with all their hearts and no matter what happens, with that attitude and mindset, they can know that they did their very best. And let’s be honest, whatever the outcome, if you’ve done that, then there’s not really anything else you can do, is there?
When we wake on Friday, a decision will have been made regarding our relationship with Europe and I have no idea what that will be or how it will affect us or our children now or in the future. When Northern Ireland play on Saturday, I have no idea what will happen then either. What I do know though, is that regardless of how team members or their supporters vote tomorrow, they will all have one combined hope that will unite them when that match kicks off on Saturday and as long as the team play with all their hearts, regardless of the weird rules about being on-side (I jest!) they will have, undoubtedly, given themselves and us, a real reason to once more, #Dare to Dream!