In the end it was the Hand of God that saved the Christians.
As Prince Charles, who would like one day to style himself Defender of Faith, moved towards the sidelines of the Christianity vs. Islam soccer tournament, the big German vicar Heribert Süttmann just managed to get his keeper’s glove to the ball and save the honor of the West.
“Quite a match,” the Prince said as he handed the gilded inter-faith cup to the captains of the Vicars and the Imams. The scoreless draw in the Berlin game was a triumph for the ecumenical movement and a relief for the Prince, who argues for mutual respect between competing faiths — but it was a close-run thing.
Before the game, staged in a scruffy stadium in the center of the Turkish district of the German capital, the odds were strongly on the Muslims thrashing the Christians. Last year they won 9-0. This year they looked even slicker. “My God,” the Christian captain, the Rev. Roland Herpich, said, “there are hundreds of them.”
It was seven-a-side but the Muslim clerics, wearing white shirts marked “Imam,” had brought along 15, a sign of how rapidly the Islamic community is expanding in the German capital. They were muscular, well-trained Turks, Tunisians and Egyptians, and as they rolled out their prayer mats in the changing room it was plain that they were counting on Allah.
The idea of pitting Christians against Muslims was tried out in a charity match in Leicester in 2005 and was brought to Berlin by the local Anglican chaplain, the Rev. Christopher Jage-Bowler, 47. The chaplain — who used to be a Moët & Chandon salesman — said: “Prince Charles coming here has put this kind of strategy on the map and it shows that imams and Christian clergy are really concerned with integration and dialogue on the basis of friendship rather than just talking over each other heads.”
A Protestant player whose specialty was a long looping pass added: “Creating a new easiness between urban religious communities is a kind of soft power. I can see why the Prince would be interested in this as a future king.”