– by Pete Coyle
The European Sword of the Spirit Football Tournament has been running since its inception in 1992 and remains one of the highlights of the year (if not the highlight) for many throughout the region. It’s an event unlike any other, filled with football (obviously), fellowship, banter, prayer, brotherhood and community. The Football Tournament is an event geared toward gathering men from around the region to come together to play together but also to be men together, pray together and build community together. In some ways the football itself is the least important part of the weekend.
In 2016 we gathered in Munich, Germany on the first weekend in May (as is traditional) to celebrate the 24th iteration of the tournament. We were blessed this year to be hosted by the Brots des Lebens (Bread of Life) community in Munich and Olching and to have a great quality pitch on which to play. The weather was even compliant on the Saturday. This year we had five teams: Charis (Belfast), Nazareth (Dublin), City on a Hill (Bielsko-Biala), Antioch (London) and Brot des Lebens (Munich). After playing four games apiece, the final was contested between the two highest ranked teams, Nazareth and Charis. In the final itself, Charis triumphed with a 3-0 win.
Overall, the tournament was also a triumph. Everyone enjoyed the on field and off field aspects and all the matches were closely contested. It was a great experience overall. Away from the pitch, notable events included the Lord’s Day in Munich city centre which was followed by a rousing prayer meeting featuring a brief but inspirational sharing by Dave ‘Q’ Quintana. Q spoke on the different stages of life that many of the brothers were at and the Lord was asking us to respond given our different phases of life. The Sunday night celebration was also a high point as the guys shared some beer and fellowship.
Perhaps one of the most important features of the Football Tournament is its sense of history and repetition. Given that many of the people who play each year are the same, relationships and brothers are developed year upon year so that many of the older men are steadfast brothers who have known each other for twenty five years. For them, the tournament is a permanent fixture on the yearly calendar where they can refresh these friendships.
The overall spirit in which the tournament is conducted is also an incredibly vital part of the tournament’s dynamic. While we strive to play hard, we also seek to play fair and to ensure a brotherly atmosphere is created. For many, the environment of the tournament is a precious thing: men coming from across the continent to be together. The spiritual aspect is also crucial for many. The Saturday night prayer meetings are normally places where the Lord works powerfully with many of the men present and this year was no exception. God was speaking clearly and calling directly to his sons.
The Football Tournament continues to be a place of life, hope and joy amongst our brothers in Europe and long may it continue to be. I thoroughly look forward to joining in again in Bielsko Biala in May 2017.
Pete Coyle grew up in the Community of the Risen Christ in Glasgow. He is an affiliate with the Servants of the Word and currently lives in their household in London, UK. Pete also serves in Koinonia, a Christian university student outreach in London and also with Antioch Community in London.
Photos by Mark Major, a member of Bread of Life Community in Olching, Germany.
From Living Bulwark, June/July 2016, used with permission.