One time when the whole of our school was seated in the pews for Mass on Ash Wednesday the priest gave us a sermon about the significance of Ash Wednesday, about life and death , ” remember man that thou art dust , and unto dust thou shalt return ” . He told us a story of a February day just like this one and a Manchester United team , the greatest ever , and a Plane crash on an icy runway in Munich Germany.
He talked of those young men , great talents that were God given , yet they too had been taken into heaven to be with God and all the saints , because no matter who we are , we all belong to God and will ultimately join him.
And all the while all I could think of was a plane in flames and Duncan Edwards , Roger Byrne , Mark Jones , David Pegg , Geoff Bent , Tommy Taylor , Billy Whelan and Eddie Coleman , lying on the tarmac , just ashes . We all sat there through this riveting sermon mouths open in fear and wonder until at the end of the Mass we went up to the priest to have our foreheads anointed with ashes to hear him say ” Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return ” .
I couldn’t help wondering if this meant that God was a United fan too , and he so loved those players that he wanted them for a special team up in heaven . I pondered my mortality and prayed that God wouldn’t want George Best and hoped the fact that Best was a Protestant might keep him out of God’s select heaven eleven .
In class a few weeks later I asked the Father if you could play football in heaven , and he said you could do whatever made you happy . ” But what if you’re team gets beaten and you’re picked last for the team after all the other boys , then you’d be sad ” . The holy Father agreed and then said you could play football in heaven but every game would be a draw and everyone would get picked at the same time .
This perplexed me , if every game was a draw why did God want all those great footballers off United who would suffer the humiliation of drawing with someone like Oldham Athletic reserves .