AS ENGLAND entered extra time against Colombia on Tuesday evening, after conceding a goal in the 93rd minute, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, retreated to his chapel to keep calm and offer prayers for the young players.
Dr Sentamu sent his 71,000 Twitter followers messages of encouragement, together with tactical advice to the England team as they battled for a World Cup quarter-final place at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow. Many followers beseeched him to pray for success.
“We are rooting you. . . We believe in you so please believe in yourself,” Dr Sentamu wrote shortly before the match began. He exhorted them to “play attaching [sic] football with pace and composure! This is the night to slay the ghost of not progressing further in the past 12 yrs.”
After England’s captain, Harry Kane, scored a 57th-minute penalty — Colombia’s players having attempted to sabotage it — Dr Sentamu exclaimed: “Captain Harry Kane you are simply the best! Please Team England keep your Composure! Simply play the Ball and don’t be provoked! Score more goals! Please! Please! You are young so stay CALM! With you!”
England’s place in the quarter-finals looked as if it might have been snatched away in the final seconds of injury time when Colombia equalised. “TEAM ENGLAND please keep Calm!”, the Archbishop repeated.
During the 30 minutes of extra time, and the agony of the penalty-shoot-out, Dr Sentamu’s account fell strangely silent. Once England had won 4-3 on penalties, the Archbishop explained his absence on Twitter: “Reflecting me had to go into my Chapel to keep Calm and keep thought for our youngest players! I’m very proud.”
The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie, an Assistant Curate at Liverpool Parish Church, spoke for many when he posted on Twitter: “Get the Archbishop of York on [television] commentary NOW.”
England play Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon, when the General Synod are meeting in York. As England battle for a place in the final four, Synod members are supposed to be attending a choice of “interactive” seminars on the four strands of work contributing to the House of Bishops’ teaching document on sexuality. The York University Bar might, however, find itself to be unusually busy.
In a letter published in The Times on Thursday, the Chaplain of St Andrew’s, Moscow, Canon Malcolm Rogers, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, called for the Government to “send a senior representative” to Russia, if England reach the semi-finals.
“Their presence would in no way endorse the Russian government or its actions, or excuse the outrage of Salisbury,” he wrote. “Any handshake at the end of the match would be between two people who love their respective countries and would be a sign of simple congratulation or sympathy for a match won or lost. It does not need to be political, just very human.
“There is a completely unjustified level of fear of Russia and Russians, particularly in the UK, as evidenced here by the serious lack of England fans. Sadly, the Russia that I read about in the Western media or that I hear spoken about by our politicians bears little reality to the Russia in which I live, or the Russia experienced by those who have come.”
ReutersMembers of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican watch Switzerland’s defeat by Sweden on Tuesday