Editors note: Full disclosure… I am the EC Varsity Boys Soccer Coach, have a borderline unhealthy obsession with soccer. Any excuse to write about soccer is a good one for me, so if this particular blog post misses the goal (see what I did there?), please forgive me.
Director of Marketing and Enrollment Management
For soccer fans around the world, the summer of 2016 represents a veritable feast of soccer-watching possibilities: Multiple major international tournaments, our own domestic league Major League Soccer, and the 2016 Olympics. The most prestigious soccer experience this summer is the Euro Cup where 24 of Europe’s top footballing nations compete for the major regional title; the aptly named Euro Cup. Held every four years, the 2016 tournament is being hosted by France. And this year’s edition has not disappointed. While I will resist the temptation to feature all the cool on-field things that happened (like this, this, or this!), this post is about an amazing off-field movement. Namely, the remarkable positive influence of the traveling fans of the North Ireland soccer team.
Let’s face it- soccer fans in Europe don’t really have the greatest reputation. There’s a reason that the phrase “Soccer Hooligan” exists and “Tennis Hooligan” doesn’t. Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, the 2016 Euro Cup got off to a rocky start regarding fan violence. With other recent violence in France and in our violent world today, the script for the tournament looked bleak.
And then something amazing happened. The Irish supporter’s behavior started grabbing headlines for quite the opposite reason: random acts of kindness, general good-natured honest/clean fun, and good old fashioned “golden rule” behavior. The Irish supporter’s exemplary actions and attitudes in stadiums, in hotels, in restaurants, and on the streets of France have shined a spotlight on how positive behavior as a group can have an amazing impact beyond ourselves. In addition to robust, strong support of their team, Irish fans fans are picking up trash in the stadium and in the streets. They are fixing people’s cars and change flat tires. They are serenading French strangers on the streets. They’re even singing to nuns on trains!
And the world has taken notice. Many are calling the Irish fans “The Best in the World.” The nation’s fans are even being awarded a french medal of recognition for “Exemplary Sportsmanship.”
This “rebrand” of the soccer fan has been amazing to watch, and I think there are some lessons for Christians (and maybe even Christian Schools) to learn from the Irish soccer fan’s example. So, here are my thoughts on 3 Things We Can All Learn From Irish Soccer Fans:
Common decency isn’t common
Those of us growing up with solid moral values instilled at early ages have no idea just how amazing we seem when we do “common, decent” things. A couple of things my grandpa taught me: “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice,” and “Always leave the place looking nicer when you left than when you arrived.” While we would all probably agree with these ideals, very few groups of people in our culture actually do this. That’s why when a massive group of green-clad, face-painted fan-cheering warriors do these things, it’s automatically newsworthy.
As Christians, we know that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart”. We too frequently look at that verse and surmise that only what’s inside that counts. But that misses the first part: man looks at the outward appearance! The world is watching. What are we Christians doing when we’re being watched? Are we living vocally and obviously for the least of these? Do we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly? If we are, that’s weird. Good weird. Because so few people actually live this way! And when we live this way, we offer the opportunity for conversation with others about why we live this way.
You are your brand
The North Ireland soccer fans were smart in the way that they did these actions- always with their green jerseys on. They wanted everyone to know who they were and why they were acting in this manner. And the international accolades ensued.
I love seeing EC students decked out in EC gear on Touch the World mission trips and service projects and in our Middle School “Make a Difference” days. We wear this gear not to glorify ourselves or our community, but to show who we are and what we’re about. Ultimately, it’s about pointing the glory to God!
Probably my favorite example of this at Eastern Christian School is the tradition in our girls athletics programs where we pray with our opponents after the game. Win or lose, vs. a public or private school, we pray with them. I think this is a tremendous example of EC students living out their faith and “being our brand.”
TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More
The North Ireland soccer team advanced further in the tournament than most experts predicted. This was due, in large part, to the amazing support from their boisterous fan base. Everyone who has participated in a successful team sport knows that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s impressive when one Irish fan sings to a fan on the street. Is SPECTACULAR when hundreds of fans do this.
At EC, we don’t usually have the entire community literally cheering us on (with the obvious exception of our homecoming or our community sports nights!). But we do have an amazing amount of community support. Through prayers, financial contributions, and the volunteer efforts of the EC community, we accomplish more together. You can’t walk around our campuses without seeing the impact of this. From facility and technology upgrades to new and improved classes and support for our Variable Tuition Program, the community footprint is everywhere!
Come join our team!
Are you looking to join a community like Eastern Christian School? Does your child know that school can be different? Our enrollment office is ready to work with you as you explore joining our team!