Stoppage Time: FIFA World Cup and Your Spirituality

By Ehab Hassan

That time we’ve all been waiting for is finally here – the 2014 FIFA World Cup!

This year, Brazil will be hosting the 20th World Cup soccer tournament from June 12 – July 13 and it’s the biggest sporting event on the planet. It’s that time when the entire world stops to watch and people’s problems seem to fade away. It’s a time to root for that underdog, cheer for the powerhouse, or if you know soccer well enough, tune in to watch your favorite players. It is the biggest global event – with new stadiums, unprecedented prize money from FIFA, and an estimated one billion viewers.

Growing up, I was much more into watching the World Cup than I am today, and even though you can still count me among the billion viewers this year, I don’t go quite as crazy over it as I used to. As a kid, I would pick my team (then pick another team once they got eliminated) and cheer for them until my voice was gone. Yes, it was that important.

Those close games would have my heart pounding and my adrenaline rushing, and you knew it was going to have a great ending. Suddenly, the game clock would stop at 90 minutes. That’s when you knew the game was going to get exciting. Stoppage time!

For you non-soccer fans out there, unlike most other sports, soccer has a running clock. During the game, if someone gets hurt, the ball goes out of bound, a fight breaks out, or for any reason play doesn’t continue; the clock doesn’t stop like it does in other sports; but instead, the referee keeps track of the time so that it can be added on to the end of the game. Nobody except the referee knows officially how much time is left when stoppage time starts or exactly when he’ll decide to stop the game. But you do know one thing – the time left is very, very little.

This drives people to push themselves to their utmost and you see some of the best soccer plays at that time. This includes amazing game-winning shots, heart breaking goals scored, and crowds going wild. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Even the players who are dead tired and drenched in sweat give it their all in those last few minutes – fighting even harder than they did all game.

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Everything is on the line and time is of the essence. It’s that final push. If players are thirsty, they go without water. If they are tired, they go without rest. They cannot let up for a second, because they do not know if each moment, that single play, will be the last – they play until the referee blows the final whistle. Only at that instant when the whistle is blown, can the players collapse on the field, exhausted after a hard fought battle. It is over and there is nothing more they can do – they have either lost or they walk away as champions.

A few precious moments to give it all we can

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized – we’re living in stoppage time. I finally started to understand that that’s what our life is. A few precious moments to give it all we can even though we don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We only know that our time is short. At any moment, our time will be up and our whistle will be blown. If we’re tired, then we go without rest. If we’re thirsty or have other desires distracting us from our mission, then we do without them, for just a little bit longer. It’s not a time for rest, but a time to give it everything we got no matter how exhausted we are. Anything we do, no matter how big or small could be our final play, our final moment. We give it our all because in this short time we have to prove ourselves so that, by the grace of Allah, we can live forever as champions.

We see people around us dying every day. Some die after long, drawn out illnesses, and others suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. How would we live our lives if we knew our time was short? I had a friend who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Just days after I heard the news, he invited me to play an online game against him; a game I was already playing with other friends. I thought to myself – what is he doing? Doesn’t he realize that his days are numbered? Does he not know that he’s dying? What is he doing with the life he has left? But then I thought to myself – are my days not numbered? Am I not going to die? He’s just more aware of it than I am. How am I making a difference in the world with the time that I do have? How am I preparing myself to stand before the Lord of the Worlds?

When it’s our time to go, what will our legacy be? Will it be that we had a 9 to 5 job and were miserable doing it? Or will it be that we did something that mattered? Will it be that we impacted the lives of our family, friends, and those around us? Will it be that we took advantage of every day of our lives and made a difference in the world? Who will miss us when we’re gone? Will we have any regrets, or did we live our lives to the fullest?

As I walked out of my office building one day, a coworker who I had never met before shared an elevator ride with me. We engaged in some small talk and started walking down the street, when I noticed that we were approaching a homeless man. So naturally, I avoided eye contact, and tried to look more engaged in my conversation with my coworker. Then suddenly, my coworker told me it was nice talking to me and that maybe he would see me around some time. Then he turned to the homeless man with a dollar in his hand and with a huge smile on his face cried out, “Dave!” The homeless man, an elderly man in a wheelchair, replied, “Chris, how have you been?” I kept walking and thought to myself, now that’s a man who will be missed one day. That should have been me.

Although we don’t like to think of it too much, no one has ever escaped death. But we live our lives as if we may be the first. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “Every soul will taste death…” ( Al-‘Anbya’ 21:35)

I came across lyrics to a song once that read: “We are young, wandering the face of the earth, wondering what our dreams might be worth, learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time.”

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “Until when the angel of death comes to one of them, he says, [For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back That I might do righteousness in that which I left behind’… ” (Al- Mu’minun 23:99-100).


So while you’re enjoying the World Cup games this year, make sure you take a moment to reflect. Enjoy the games, but don’t get too caught up – there is a reason why it’s called a game. As we have time to appreciate the fun and permissible things in life, such as sports, remember in the words of Nike: “Life’s short. Play hard.”


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11 responses to “Stoppage Time: FIFA World Cup and Your Spirituality”

  1. Maqbool says:

    Mashallah, this was a great article, with a great mission

    I like to think of this world as waiting at the airport, in transit for a few hours, before we catch our next flight

    Our transit time at the airport consists of being online, having a meal, reading the paper and visiting the gift shop and being mildly amused at the shiny trinkets there. Most of us dont even have access to the VIP lounge where you can can have better food or have access to a bed.

    Life is the same way, in my humble opinion

    but the 9-5 that you mentioned can really be distracting. It also sucks life out of you, leaving little energy for much else.

    this whole world is designed to distract you: consisting of long work hours, long commutes and traffic jams, constant living in fear of trivial things like getting fired or family drama

  2. Hyde says:

    Outside the most idiotic of games ever, I concur with the messages .

    • ZAI says:

      You calling soccer idiotic bro?
      It is the most beloved game on the planet and in every country apart
      from North America and South Asia. You are free to dislike it, but
      much appreciated if you kept it at that and didn’t venture into calling
      it “idiotic”…Does that make all of us who love it “idiots”?

      • Hyde says:

        Nonsense. I did not call anybody idiots by any extension. The game, or any international hyperbole event or where people gather for absolute frivolous reasons like concerts, Olympic games, these pathetic football debuts are all a tremendous waste of time.

        THINK what times we live in, think why kicking a ball around gives so much celebrity status. Everything going around us and this is what we love, a game where grown men in shorts kick a ball around for 90 minutes surrounded overzealous hooligans ?

        Was it not couple of years where in a in house Egyptian game, people died ? What ?!?!?! Muslims dying over a “damn” football game ? How cheap is Muslim blood really ? Shame shame all around.

        Was there not a Taliban attack in Karachi ? Guess what the pathetic shilled out media was covering ? Fifa world cup ? The youth of Pakistan or any other country is more focused on the world cup. ??

        One look around this desolate globalized earth, where every imaginable sin and deceit in perpetuated in longevity and open air, then one would not care if there was a galactic world cup or global…a silly waste of time.

        Entertainment and bread. Keep the masses the sullied and enslaved.

        • ZAI says:

          Br Hyde,
          This is a religion of balance. What you advocate and how you’re doing it will do nothing to solve the world’s problems, nor will it draw people to Islam. Please refer to the narration about Hanzalah(R). There is a time for this, and a time for that my brother. This religion does not forbid leisure and enjoyment nor does it denigrate sports, whether participating or watching.

          “The game, or any international hyperbole event or where people gather for absolute frivolous reasons like concerts, Olympic games, these pathetic football debuts are all a tremendous waste of time.”

          No one spends ALL of their time doing something serious. It is against human nature and everyone needs a break. What you’re advocating is the life of a despressing ascetic or a fanatical ideologue. Sorry my brother, but I don’t know what religion that is…it sure isn’t Islam. Our Prophet and the Sahaba(R) were besieged on all sides, fighting for their lives, suffering, being oppressed, etc..but life never stopped and it wasn’t all fighting and praying. They made time for fun…every day leisure and enjoying life within the boundaries of Islam.

          Something maybe frivolous, but necessary for a healthy state of mind. Since when is enjoyment forbidden by this religion? On the authority of what hadith or Qur’anic verse do you make people feel guilty for taking a break and enjoying a game for a few hours?

          You underestimate the power of sports my brother. Aside from the discipline, work ethic and striving for excellence it instills in practitioners, watching it serves as a way of bringing people, even nations, together and I’m sorry you have such a cynical view of it all.

          One of my close friends travels to Afghanistan every summer to run a soccer camp for girls and through that has brought a lot of joy to their poor lives…to children who have nothing. He has also exposed them to new experiences, taking them to Qatar and UAE to participate in girls tournaments, helped them secure soccer scholarships so they can get an education and taught them to have pride, a hard work ethic, and discipline…all through that game. Sorry that’s all a frivolous waste of time for you. I think those girls would all disagree.

          “Was it not couple of years where in a in house Egyptian game, people died ? What ?!?!?!”

          My brother, people die in Hajj too…especially during the stoning ritual.
          The behavior of certain people or a tragic event doesn’t make the whole exercise of something a thing to be shunned.

          “Muslims dying over a “damn” football game ? How cheap is Muslim blood really ? Shame shame all around.”

          Brother, thousands of times of Muslims are dying over RELIGIOUS issues by fighting over the deen. It dwarfs some soccer riot a thousand times over. I would also ask, “how cheap is Muslim” blood? Atleast vast majority of people playing soccer aren’t killing each other.

          “Was there not a Taliban attack in Karachi ? Guess what the pathetic shilled out media was covering ? Fifa world cup ? The youth of Pakistan or any other country is more focused on the world cup. ??”

          Are you kidding or what? Pakistani, Arab and even European channels were covering the Taliban siege the whole time it was happening. I even saw coverage on Afghan satellite, BBC, Al Jazeera America, most newspapers and even the God-awful CNN. Brother it is possible to be aware of what’s going on in the world and ALSO just live your every day life…including watching a game. Life is not as stark as either/or.

          “One look around this desolate globalized earth, where every imaginable sin and deceit in perpetuated in longevity and open air, then one would not care if there was a galactic world cup or global…a silly waste of time.”

          Are you talking about human beings or some kind of ideologue robot?
          Get real man…Most people are just living their lives, trying to make a living, take care of their kids, pay their bills and get through the day…and once in a while they catch a game on TV to relax. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the world…but any realistic person knows your life can’t be consumed by everything all the time.

          “Entertainment and bread. Keep the masses the sullied and enslaved.”

          There is a time for this and a time for that my Brother….and referring to people as “the masses” probably won’t draw too many of them to your message.

          • Hyde says:

            All right, that’s a disingenuous: juxtaposing what I am saying to helping out young girls have some enjoyment in their lifetime by playing football in Afghanistan. In fact your entire rebuttal is purposely missing the point. No where I am advocating that we hide under the bed and not do anything or not have any leisure fun for games and sports. Of course sports are necessary. They built bonds, discipline and character. I used to be an active participant in all sorts of sports myself.

            And I am no messenger with a message. My point was the over zealous grand jubilees of incessant nationalism and grandiloquent displays of musch. The issue of mass entertainment. Over glorified money pandering schemes and further I did not interject religion so much into my argument. I made a simple point of the pathetic delusional “high” the masses are to receive from such hyperbolic events.

            You really missed my point brother. It’s not the masses that are robots, it’s they are made automatons with the servile mass entertainment

            (“Entertaining us to death”).

          • ZAI says:

            It’s not disingenuous at all Brother. You said the GAME was idiotic in your first comment, then you followed up with a diatribe about participating or watching the game while various other problems exist in the world…as if it’s not possible to enjoy a game and care about the world at the same time.

            If you want to criticize the BAD aspects of the tournament…such as the waste of billions of dollars in construction, advertising, human rights abuses in places like Brazil or Qatar, or people who take sports to an extreme wherein it becomes an obsession, etc. I would wholeheartedly agree with you. Be more precise.

          • Hyde says:

            I did become precise with my comments below.

        • Hyde says:

          (Okay iffy iffy I was bit too harsh, I can say ‘okay okay’, you can “enjoy” the game, but I still stand by that it is a an “idiotic” game unlike cricket of course hehe and that any mass hyperbolic entertainment festivals are just frivolous and morose concentrated to sway minds from else matters that require more concern)

          • Balooh says:

            True say Mr Hyde. ” Keep the masses sullied and enslaved.”
            I know someone who usually prays with jamaat in the masjid but as its world cup he has thought it’s a good idea to pray at home so he doesn’t miss any of it. May Allah accept all our prayers, but to break such a good habit for something quite meaningless, not so good.

            Too much focus on entertainment and too little on what’s real.
            We all are probably a little guilty of it to some extent, may Allah guide us.

          • Hyde says:

            Guilty we all are, and that definitely includes me. Not like I am a five time praying mufti, but the way I see it, even though I can’t inject the vaccine into my body, I still can diagnosis the disease (trying not to sound too presumptuous)

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