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14 August 2015

Football is back - and so is the reminder that our words travel far

Football is back - and so is the reminder that our words travel far

Friday Night Theology is currently enjoying a summer holiday. Instead, Tim Bechervaise has written on football, Mourinho and the power of what we say, giving his thoughts on our responsibility to steward words.

And so we go again. 

The new football season has begun: plenty of goals - a few them wonderful, a surprising result or two, questionable refereeing, wrong tactics and dodgy defending.

Oh, and a public row between a manager and his team of medics. That's got to be a new one. 

Yes,this is the curious tale of José Mourinho and Eva Carneiro. In case you missed it, the Chelsea manager was clearly none too pleased on the touchline when Carneiro and the team physiotherapist, on direction of the referee, ran onto the field of play in the final minutes of their match with Swansea to attend to an injured Eden Hazard. Mourinho later said in his post-match interview that he felt the treatment was unnecessary and ill-judged, claiming they did not "understand the game", with it leaving Chelsea down to eight outfield players - already down one after an earlier sending off - and further at risk of losing a game they were drawing. 

The "Special One's" words led to a wave of support for the medics, which led to Eva Carneiro posting on her Facebook page: "I would like to thank the general public for their overwhelming support. Really very much appreciated." Reports now suggest that Mourinho - with Carneiro's subtle yet public response to the criticism perhaps the final straw of the Chelsea manager's growing frustrations with the medical team - has scaled back her responsibilities, no longer permitted at training sessions, the team hotel or matches. 

The issue has been the subject of both back and front-page headlines, experts in the medical field have offered their take, and Mourinho has even been accused of sexism. It is turning into the biggest talking point of the first week of the season - and it is not really about football. 

The suggestion is that Mourinho's post-match comments were carefully calculated to draw attention away from his own team's below-par display. As one newspaper article put it: "Mourinho is not always a very nice man, but he is always a brilliant manager." Perhaps. Or maybe it was less calculated and Mourinho simply let frustration get the better of him in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing ninety minutes. We've all been there.

Either way, clearly this was an issue best kept 'in-house', by all parties. It may not have completely kept a lid on things, but the lid would at least have stemmed the spill. That can only be a good thing - for one, we can focus on the football. In our age of social media and instant communication, not to mention a media that does not let too much pass, it is incredibly difficult for high-profile people to leave behind their pointed remarks or reactions.

I wonder if there is something for us all in this. Our words may not attract the same level of headlines and opinion, but they do have the potential to travel far. The platforms we all speak from and the audiences we speak to will vary. Be it a tweet to thousands, a lecture-hall of hundreds, or a conversation with one, we all have a responsibility to steward our words well and be mindful of where our words could go. 

Are they better kept in private? Are they kind and encouraging? Are they helpful? Do I need to sleep on them before hitting 'Send' or 'Post'? 

James likens hastily spoken words to a small spark, which creates a fire that covers a great forest, while the writer of Proverbs 16:24, says: "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Our words can have the power to do either. Whatever you say today, speak well.