Secondly, sport is still an endeavour that many of us hold dear and which brings out the best and worst in our characters and abilities.
With those two facts in mind, perhaps it is worth mentioning on this feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (according to the traditional calendar) that there perhaps the most dramatic example of the power of self belief in the history of soccer is inextricably connected to the French saint and the faith that many men entrust to her 'little way'.
In May 2012, Manchester City were on their way to the Premier League title. All that needed to be done was to win on the final day as their superior goal difference would prevent Manchester from winning even if they won their respective game against Sunderland. Things did not go to plan however, with City trailing 2-1 with minutes left in the game after United had wrapped up a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light. Luckily for City, the devout Catholic Roberto Mancini had a relic of St. Therese inside his suit jacket pocket. Fr. Mark Lyden Smith had loaned it to Mancini. The Newcastle priest later said of the situation,
|Roberto Mancini at Medjugorje|
“I spoke with Roberto after Mass and agreed to loan him my relic of this great saint for the match, not in any superstitious way, but to call upon the communion of saints in his prayers during the match, praying for players to use their God-given gifts and talents.
Roberto kept the relic in his pocket for the match, and also Manchester City’s last game of the season, the thriller that saw Roberto’s team win the title in the last seconds of the season and be crowned champions. Roberto then returned my relic of St Therese in the post. Perhaps the ‘Little Flower’, as St Therese is known, had a hand in the glory of the Premier League title race last season. Who knows?”
Given her penchant for these types of personable miracles, it is hard for any devotee of the Little Flower not to feel a sense of truth in his words. The clock struck 94:30 minutes, four minutes into added time when Sergio Aguero followed Edin Dzeko's equaliser with a winner, whipping his top off in the ensuing mayhem. As a Manchester United fan, I can only pray that Louis Van Gaal rediscovers the Catholic faith that he lost two decades amidst a personal tragedy, not for football reasons but for the sake of his soul.