Modern Idol

The average spectator attendance in Germany’s first football league (Bundesliga) increased from 25,104 fans per game in 1963 to 42,420 fans per game in 2016. This is an increase of 69% during the described period. These numbers are even more interesting if one considers the fact that the most successful German football club, FC Bayern München, won 13 out of the last 20 German league championships. The same club won during the 60s and 70s collectively only four championships. One wonders why more and more fans are coming to watch football games when the competition in the Bundesliga is getting duller (that is, with the same club winning the vast majority of the national titles). It is hard to imagine that the product “Bundesliga” itself became more exciting, thus drawing more spectators, when the championship is not a good competition any more. Still an increasing number of spectators come to the different stadiums each game day. In search of reasons, it is good to have a look at a different statistic:

The percentage of the population belonging to either the Catholic or the Protestant Church dropped during this time frame from 96.6 % (1961) to 56 % (2015) in Germany. That is a decrease of 40.6 %. It is obvious that the German population has become more and more secular. Less people believe in God. Secular people are rejecting all kinds of religious faith and worship. But when you don’t worship God anymore, that is, when you don’t place God first in your life, it’s not that you aren’t worshiping at all, you are simply replacing him with something else. Mankind does not exist only by eating, drinking and sleeping. Every human being needs something more to live – a purpose that brings meaning to life. If God is not this purpose, then something else takes this place. For many football fans, football has become this purpose. If football has become one’s god, then watching the games at the stadium is a kind of worship. It is not about winning the game alone; it is about the whole stadium experience: The singing of fan hymns, the choreography before the game - nowadays it all looks more and more like the liturgy in a religious service. The same thing secular people would reject in a religious service, they welcome at a football game. It reveals certain subconscious needs in the human soul.

This is not to demonize football. Football is an exciting sport and can have a positive influence if it has the right place in people’s life. But I want to question if it is a wise decision to make a man-made thing like football into a modern idol. As all man-made things, football is prone to corruption. Doping and betting scandals have undermined the credibility of the sport. The striving for money has turned many leagues into dull competitions as pointed out in the example above. Is this really worth making the center of one’s life? Most people don’t make this choice consciously; it just happens that football becomes their modern idol to fill a void in their lives. Maybe it needs an eye-opener to realize the place football is taking in one’s life; maybe it’s time for a change?