"It matters a great deal who is going to win, but not at all who won"
Love your neighbour as yourself. Matthew 22:39
In early 2008 a massive row broke out in international cricket. An Indian player allegedly called an Australian player a "monkey". This is deemed racist and unacceptable. There was then unbelievably a discussion about which animal names could be used of an opposing player without being racist or offensive!
Part of our problem with competition is that it often seems ugly and negative. The winning at all costs attitude is prevalent in sport with a motivation based on disrespect for the opponent. "Sledging"ù or verbally abusing opponents during a game has become accepted behaviour. It is part of the build-up to a crucial game for coaches to insult each other. Think of games between Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in the English Premiership for example.
For the Christian player it is important to see the opponent as a neighbour, a person made in the image of God. Thus the person has value and dignity, which is to be respected. As we learn to pray for our opponents and seek to show Jesus' love for them, the likelihood of insulting them will diminish and disappear.
As Christians we need perhaps to take a stand against coaches and captains who motivate by hating an opponent. As I hope this series has shown, loving our team-mates and our opponents should motivate us to 100% commitment to complete more than feelings of hatred for an opponent.
PS The name "sledging" (called "Trash-talking" in America) comes from the singer Percy Sledge. A cricketer who swore in the presence of a woman was said to be like a sledgehammer, and so called a "Percy" or "Sledge", after the singer who had a hit song about men and women at the time. Thus, directing insults or obscenities at the opposition team became known as "sledging".