Arsene Wenger has revealed that in early life, church and football dominated his life.
Wenger, who was brought up in a little village in France, has admitted that, especially when he was younger, he believed that you need religion to win football games.
He added, “I try to combine the values I think are important in a football team – because it’s a team sport, and giving something to your team makes you better. It’s not easy to understand when you’re 20, because you’re more obsessed by your own individual performance, by your ego and by your desire to be the star. So I try to convince my players that the expression of the team makes everyone individually stronger.
“We have values at the club, and we try to transform what we do on the pitch into art. We want to give every fan who wakes up on the morning of a match the opportunity to think, ‘Maybe I can have a great experience today by watching my football team.’ It’s about giving them something more, something special that’s beautiful to watch. I must say, it’s not easy, but as a football club you need to at least have this ambition.”
Faith and football seem closely linked. Even the most atheistic of fans must pray to the football Gods every so often.
I still stand by the bizarre fact that despite not being in the least bit superstitious, when it comes to football games, there I am crossing all my extremities in the hope of win; trying not to be too positive in case I jinx the outcome.
Stephen Tomkins actually wrote an interesting piece for the BBC back in 2004 about why football and faith seem interwoven at times.
Tomkins compares football chants to hymns, footballers to Gods, rival teams to the Devil. I guess he could have gone further and likened home stadiums to places of worship but I think you get the idea.
Both football and religion are about bringing people together for a similar cause because of something they love and believe in. As the boss says, it’s always about having similar values and conducting yourself in a certain way.
Not that atheists are complete animals, of course.
It’s therefore completely understandable that Wenger found these two things dominated his early life when he first got into the sport. In fact, knowing Wenger the way only us fans do, I’m not surprised in the slightest.