Thought for the Day - Rev Rob Marshall - 11/05/2013
This afternoon's FA Cup Final is not, of course, the main football prospect of the weekend.
What one columnist described as the footballing equivalent to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, Sir Alex Ferguson's farewell to the Old Trafford faithful tomorrow is the biggest footballing story for a very long while.
Before Tuesday's unexpected announcement that the Manchester United boss would bow out at the end of this season, Sir Alex was a saint to millions of Red's fans across the world and a sinner to his rivals.
But in the space of just a few days, the impact of this remarkable son of Govan has crossed the tribalistic cultures of historical footballing rivalries. There has been an undoubted coming together of people recognising Sir Alex's vision and perseverance in building up an all round footballing community.
There are many faith and football metaphors which, as a former football commentator myself, I have used on many occasions: belief; teamwork, loyalty; sticking at it through good and bad; having faith; and perhaps, above all, putting something back into the wider community.
But if, on Thought for the Day, I was to offer one biblical verse on the occasion of the retirement of this footballing Knight, it would be a verse from Proverbs 27 : Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another.
Where real leadership is concerned, being able to sharpen up the skills and gifts of others from a position of personal, inner strength, the Wisdom Literature does not have a low view of human strengths and values.
Iron is strong and just as it can be used to sharpen itself, so there are certain human beings who have the ability and aptitude to sharpen up the skills of others which leads to admiration, for this gift is rare. There is no suggestion in the Book of Proverbs that such wisdom is without fault: but it is, overall, an inspiration to us.
To this extent Sir Alex Ferguson was different in another way. Enrico Sisti wrote in Italy's La Repubblica this week that "Sir Alex was an anomaly of football. In the world of everything-at-once, he remained".
And isn't that the reason why many have been taken aback by the realisation that tomorrow the faithful will say goodbye to the accumulated wisdom of almost three decades. Sir Alex is the antithesis of short term celebrity-obsessed culture. He has always been here today and here tomorrow.
All that is about to change around 6pm tomorrow. The fallible wisdom of one man is to be passed on to another. An era has passed. Faith is needed.
Available since: Mon 13 May 2013
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