Sepp Blatter has irked the Vatican with his condemnation of the Seleccao huddling together for prayer after their victory over the USA in the Confederations Cup finals.
He called their gesture "a danger" and said there was "no room for religion in soccer." Blatter has also promised he would prohibit any kind of religious expression during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
I thought soccer was above religion, nay, it is religion itself. Blatter is micromanaging again. You can't police such personal expressions and it is counterproductive. You can't go after every player signing off the cross everytime he enters the pitch or kissing his crucifix. Kaka tore of his jersey to reveal "I belong to Jesus" written on his undergarment. A bit over the top but he did what he felt deeply about.
What about other modes of expression? Once you get to this sort of policing then every type of expression is subject to censure. The Iranian players who wore green armbands in their match against South Korea were expressing their solidarity with Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was defeated by Mahmoud Ahmadenijad in an election that is widely acknowledged as rigged.
How about those vuvuzelas? South Africa's way of blowing off steam. It is part of their sporting and cultural heritage. Many have written about how irritating and distracting those contraptions are. But that is the fabric of soccer, its richness in texture and hue of colour that makes it so compelling. It is like a Hereke carpet that changes colour when you look at it from a different angle. Soccer is and will always be one of the truest indicators of the cultural, religious, and political mores of a country. I may not personally care for the Iraqi team performing namaz on the pitch after winning a match but it is an action that should be celebrated not condemned.
The danger is when public money is used. FIFA should step in if the CBF is using funds to evangelize players or hold religious camps. Those are the systemic changes that FIFA should protect against.