The USA’s Robbery, Kaka and a World (Cup) of Injustice

Let’s be honest. A pretty decent number of us have not watched a soccer game since the World Cup packed the streets of Germany back in ’06. But now it’s here again…it’s big, it’s international, it’s exciting, and if nothing else, your home country’s involvement has hopefully peaked your interest.

But I think what keeps a lot of us interested, and what really provokes us to move past being a “I’m just watching because it’s on and I guess it’s kind of interesting” to a “I really care about this. This really matters. It matters to me!” kind of fan is the personal involvement that tugs at our hearts when we see things going a different way from how we think they should.

A few nights ago, Brazil played Côte d’Ivoire and won the game 3 – 1. But after the match was finished and the stadium was cleared, it wasn’t the score that people were talking about. The thing that drew folks in, that is still drawing folks in, was the second yellow card that one of Brazil’s most shining gems, Kaka received. Two yellows equal a red, and Kaka walked off the field before the clock was out, and may or may not be allowed to play in the next match. (Depending on whether FIFA decides to step in from what I understand.)

Why was Kaka’s red so controversial? Because an Ivory Coast player, Keita, ran into Kaka. Kaka lifted his arm to block the oncoming player from running straight into him in a natural, and after studying the replays I’d like to say, very reasonable manner. Keita feigned having been elbowed in the face, brought his hands to his face and fell to the ground as if he’d just been assaulted by an armed guard with a bully club. The replays make it clear he was not hit in the face, but the ref bought it and carded Kaka. It might be fair to go so far as to say Keita cheated and Kaka was punished for it.

Injustice prevailed and the world took notice.

Just a few nights before that, the USA played Slovenia. They were down 2 – zip at the half and rallied back with goals from Donovan and Bradley to level off at 2 – 2. Then the unthinkable happened: in the 86th minute, second-half sub Maurice Edu knocked in a close range shot to put the US ahead. With just minutes remaining in the game it seemed like a sure victory, until the goal was disallowed. The replay has been watched and  re-watched. There are currently at least 24,711 views on youtube, and probably enough news articles and blog posts to circle the globe twice. It seems that at present no explanation has been offered.

Once again, injustice prevailed and the world took notice. (Fortunately, beating Algeria 1-0 last night means the USA boys are still in the game — feels like a bit of justice after the officiating tragedies.)

A friend of mine said ESPN is showing the disallowed goal footage back in the US before they show any highlights from the World Cup. Why? Because it engages people. It incites people. It takes people from “I’m just watching because it’s on and I guess it’s interesting” to “I really care. This really matters. It matters to me.”

Here’s the thing. I want to know what it will take to grab hold of the average Western churchgoer and bring them from “I will do something about injustice in the world when it’s easy and convenient for me” to “I care about this. This really matters. What happens in our world matters to me.”

Because for all the injustices on the playing field, still this is just a game. At the end of the World Cup there will be a trophy, some teams will win, some teams will lose. In 50 years not very many people will be able to remember what happened.

But in our world, these injustices are a different matter. The game is still going on, and it’s more than a game. I’m not going to bombard you with stats because I think you know them, but here are two, just relating to hunger: About 1 in 7 worldwide–854 million people–do not have enough food to sustain them. Approximately 25,000 people die each day of hunger or its related causes–about 9 million people per year. I won’t even get in to clean water, preventable disease…or this post will go on all day.

But here’s the thing. We literally could be the generation that ends extreme poverty. $65 billion could eliminate the most extreme poverty on the planet for more than a billion people.* Please read that again. (That’s how much America spent on Jewelry in 2008.) Less than a third of what we spent on pets in 2003 could bring clean water to most of the world’s poor.^ I could go on and on with statistics which could demonstrate the fact that making a huge impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people is within our grasp. It is even within the grasp of just the American church, if every churchgoer in America tithed.

The reason I address the church is because this mission for us is a non-negotiable, unmistakeable absolute command and as long as we fail to follow through with it, we are falling short of what we have been repeatedly instructed to do. On average we’re giving 2.2 percent of our income to the church and 2% of that is going to overseas missions of any kind.§

You probably don’t hold that $65 billion in your hands, I know. But you do have something to give. If Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish, one boy’s lunch, and fed more than 5,000, surely we all have something to give. Mother Teresa once said:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Let those drops start today (or continue to flow as I believe it is for many of you) with loving the person in front of you. Loving the neighbour God puts in your path. Make sure you’re willing to let Him stretch wide the understanding of your heart to answer that simple question: “Who is my neighbour?”

To paraphrase Edmund Burke, on or off the field, for injustice to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Keep believing you can make a difference. You can, and especially with God’s love at heart, you will.


*Sachs, Jeffrey D.  The End of Poverty, (2005) 295. via Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel, (2005).
^Stein, Joel. “
It’s a Dog’s Life.” Time Magazine, May 19, 2003.  + United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 1998. via ” ”
§Stearns, R. Hole, 2005.


  1. I really wish that posts like this would attract comment after comment after comment. Perhaps it is the rawness of reality that we as a Christian community can and do have the ability to really make a difference in the injustices of the world but, as yet, have not even made a ripple. Come on folks, it’s stuff like this that we should be up in arms about. Let the things that break God’s heart break yours. We need to engage with this stuff and become the change we so desperately want to see.

  2. Why do I feel so strongly about this especially today…I had a conversation with the guy who is contracted into our ‘gated community’ to ensure that the grounds stay in great shape. This particular ‘gated community’ is really the size of a small suburb in the States. He is the only person that has to work the entire area. He works five to six days a week for 8 long hours doing serious hard work. How much is he paid…R350 a week, that’s $45 a week! With that, he has to support his family of 4. This only provides him with enough money to purchase food for his family and little else. In this situation he has no opportunity to break this cycle. No way to get out and take a step-up. For him it is literally about the survival of his family. He lives in deplorable conditions in a township virtually spitting distance from an area of town where you can own a one-bedroom luxury holiday apartment for the tiny sum of R1,650,000 ($220,000)! This same apartment will probably stand empty for 90% of the year because it is not even someone’s primary residence. On the other hand, his employer is making thousands of Rands per month as a result of the contract that he has with this ‘gated community’ and probably has invested in some of this particular real estate. Their are very few countries in the world where people with so much can literally drive past people with so little and totally ignore their plight.

    To make a difference you do not have to give up your job and become a missionary like Caroline and I. Simply do what you can. If all of the friends that Caroline and I have on FB where to support a child through Compassion (at a miniscule $32/month) more than a 1000 children might have a much great chance of surviving to see Christmas. Yes, I said survive. They need our help. We need your help. Whatever you do, please don’t just read this post and do nothing. Do something! The greatest holocaust known to mankind is taking place year in year out and we need to do something. Please!

  3. Wow Mark (and Caroline),

    It amazes me to see things that God is speaking to me confirmed by other believers. Guys, it may not seem like it right now, but I feel like we are on the verge of a great movement of the Holy Spirit that will direct Christians back to the original intent for the children of Abraham- to be a blessing to all nations. I could speak volumes on this subject, but I’m not going to right now.

    Personally, I am experiencing a calling right now to establish a non profit ministry for people with spina bifida both here in the US and in the rest of the world. I can’t ignore the folks around me, but I have a heart for international missions. I want people to see such great love and generosity pour from followers of Christ that they have to ask, “Why? Why would you do this?” We have to be equipped with a supernatural love that can only come from God working through us. I would recommend another book to compliment The Hole in Our Gospel. It’s called, “Radical: taking back your faith from the American Dream”.

    I blogged some similar thoughts the other day on the website for my soon-to-be ministry. Most people have no idea how unequal the access to medical supplies and care is. In America, we use disposable plastic trachs for tracheotomies. In places like Vietnam, they’re still using metal ones. Metal ones can’t be replaced, and eventually they destroy your trachea and you finally die. Here, we throw the plastic ones in the trash on a daily basis. Those same plastic trachs can be saved, sterilized and reused by missionary doctors. Buy who does that? Only a fraction of people are aware it’s even possible.

    I’m going to go now, but I hope your posts do stir people’s hearts to go and show others the grace and glory of God.

  4. Yo Caroline & Mark (you don’t know me Mark but maybe one day) – spot on with the comments regarding this – it’s rather ironic that I stopped by your blog this evening before bed. I am about to go over my sermon notes to share with our congregation here tomorrow. I am speaking about Matt. 6:11 “Give us TODAY our DAILY BREAD” as we are doing a series on the “Lord’s Prayer”. In about the first paragraph I am sharing Caroline’s exact reference to 25,000 people dying each day with hunger related issues. Those in the western world have NO CONCEPT (even some of our own most poor and hungry) of what it means to HAVE to rely on DAILY BREAD and my hope is to help awaken this understanding in our people.

    I am excited because the people in our small community of believers is stepping up in grand ways working with a group called “Stop Hunger Now” who is doing awesome things. We recently had a “Compassion Sunday” and now our church of about 125 TOTAL (including kids) sponsors about 40 children worldwide between Compassion and other orgs. I completely agree that this are “non-negotiables” and I believe if we take series the challenge of Jesus to pray for God to “give us TODAY our DAILY BREAD” that isn’t always meaning simple physical food but to be reminded that God MUST be our provider and sustainer EACH day for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs we have . That we are also to be thankful for Him providing those things EACH DAY as well and to be content with what He HAS given.

    Also because it says “give US” and “OUR daily bread” it is a call to the communal – that we have to seek to be the answer to that prayer for others just as Jesus Himself was the answer to that prayer. Jesus was the ULTIMATE “bread of life sent from heaven” – so if we are to be like Him then we must step up to be the answer to the prayer of providing life sustaining goods to people around us.

    AND DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THAT part about how much people spend on pets – especially all the calls our church gets for help from people that have pets and spend money on them – come on REALLY??? I know pets play a special role in people’s lives but are they MORE important than a roof over your children’s head or food on the table?? aaaahhh I can’t even get going on that! ha ha ha ha

    Keep up the great work!



  1. Staring into the Ravine - [...] seen change. I’ve seen generosity make a difference. And I’ve seen the numbers. And I’ve shared some of them…

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