At times like this, when Birmingham City is teetering just above the relegation zone, it can feel as though football is the most important thing in my life. But I’ve been reminded that it isn’t. In one week, three people I know died: a neighbour, a football friend and a cousin. The neighbour and cousin were both older than me and suffering some of the indignities of old age. There is sadness when such people die but it is expected and doesn’t seem wrong. The friend was Jacqui Forster, who was only 55 years old, and I’ve written my thoughts about her on the Blues Trust website.
It was the death of a much younger man that put football into perspective for me. Jeff Hall played for Birmingham City and for England and was my favourite player. On March 21st 1959 he was in the Blues team playing at Portsmouth. He was taken ill with polio just after that and died two weeks later, on April 4th. His death was a tragedy; losing and relegation are just misfortunes.
How do I react to the death of friends? It makes me more determined to live life to the full while I can. For me, a Christian, that involves seeking to reflect God’s love and goodness and to run counter to some of the prevailing ideologies of this age. I don’t believe that money has more value than people. I think it is wrong for politicians and others to seek power by promoting a ‘them and us’ message that divides people; that was what Hitler did when he scapegoated the Jews and it led to the Holocaust.
One way that I can live out my faith is my involvement with Blues Trust. We believe that the people who attend games are more important than the money sloshing round at the top of the Premier League. The people with the money shouldn’t make all the decisions; ordinary fans should be consulted too. Being a Birmingham City fan makes me part of a group of people who are not all like me; we have different views on politics and religion and are only united by a common love for the Blues. That helps to prevent me adopting a ‘them and us’ view of other people. Other members of the Blues Trust board have different motivations for being involved but I think we all believe that fans working together can have influence.