World Cup proves a football blessing to Iran
Amidst the general woes of life, millions around the globe were cheered recently as attention focussed on the draw for the 2006 World Cup in Germany - with soccer underdogs Iran giving thanks for a highly favourable drawÖ to the Biggest Influence of all.
Last week's draw in Leipzig was watched by an estimated 350 million people. But two commentators were especially elated. Inspired, even.
The Iranian duo broadcasting to anxious fans in Tehran and across the country told viewers exactly which teams their nation would end up playing in Group D, 'Inshallah' (God willing).
Their choice from the complicated seeding system was Mexico, Angola and Portugal. And, lo and behold, this is exactly the formation that was drawn for Iran.
Overjoyed by their divine insight, the pair jumped for joy and kissed each other, according to fellow reporter Luke Harding.
However, not everything about the proceedings pleased Iranian TV. Producers moved to excise scantily-dressed supermodel Heidi Klum from the picture for their edited version of the show, deeming her appearance 'immoral'.
Further to the issue of possible divine favouritism, Ekklesia's highly theologically sensitive Football Analysis Unit has now done a detailed breakdown of the outcome of the draw, based on a precise weighting of different religious and secular factors.
Its verdict is that God gave a ringing endorsement to even-handed chance, as opposed to any intelligently designed system such as that favoured by the hapless FIFA, in determining which team ended up in which group.
Religion and football have enjoyed a long and complex relationship over the years, marked by a certain amount of competition.
When a Christian evangelist put up posters around soccer-mad city Liverpool during one of their eras of great success in the last century, the question on them read: 'What would you do if Jesus came to Liverpool?'
Immediately, a local wit responded by scribbling at the bottom, 'I'd put him in at centre forward and send Kenny Dalgleish out to the wing.'
Liverpool won the European Champions League again last season, even without a Palestinian-Jewish striker.
[Ekklesia received no money from football sponsors for this news story, but remains open to offers]