Hallowed be thy game
A documentary exploring whether football can be considered a new religion is being shown on Channel Four on Sunday.
'Hallowed be thy Game' will explore, as church attendances plummet, whether the beautiful game is attracting more passionate followers to its ranks.
Former Dominican friar and lifelong Manchester United fan Mark Dowd will talk to leading soccer players and religious figures about whether devotion to the game is now moving into the space left by conventional religious belief.
Interviewees for the programme include Sir Alex Ferguson, Michael Owen, Freddie Ljungberg, Jermain Defoe, Danny Murphy and Robbie Fowler.
Mark Dowd will make the point that if a Martian came to Earth looking for scenes of devout public worship, he'd find them as readily in football grounds as in churches.
In the programme he will suggest that the religious dimension is not limited to the communal uplift of the matches.
Showing scenes of a Muslim service at Burnley's ground, he will point out that ashes of the dead are scattered in goalmouths, weddings take place in stadiums and Robbie Fowler used to be known to Liverpool fans as "God".
At one point, a clever montage will evoke the ties between football and Christian ritual - from the swaying arms of the faithful to the climactic raising of a cup.
At the end of his thought-provoking film, Dowd, a believer himself, makes a surprisingly persuasive case for the idea that, at its best, the "beautiful game" may occasionally point us in a spiritual direction.
Hallowed Be Thy Game 8:00pm - 9:00pm Sunday 10th January Channel 4 VIDEO Plus+: 1905