The Queensland Maroons and their supporters in Melbourne for the State of Origin clash at Etihad Stadium are unlikely to seek the solace of a prayer room in the stadium to ensure success. The Blues and their supporters are facing a seventh consecutive series loss so the prayer room may be their only hope.

For some reason, the beer n pie queue was empty at quarter time. Pic: AFP

A prayer room, for all denominations, has recently been introduced at Etihad Stadium. The Australian Football League (AFL) wants all of its major football venues to house a place of worship.

The AFL intention comes after the Richmond Club’s mid fielder Bachar Houli a devout Muslim said the requirement for Muslims to pray five times a day was stopping many from attending AFL games. I know many Rugby League fans of the Muslim faith and they don’t seem deterred from attending games due to the absence of a prayer room.

Former Hawthorn Football Club President and Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has lashed out at the AFL over the ruling, describing it as “political correctness gone mad” and said the idea that it would result in bigger (Muslim) crowds was “moronic”.

As religious attendance rates have dropped off in recent decades, interest in sport spectatorship has soared. Karl Marx famously declared that religion was the opium of the people but it appears now that sport is the new opium of the people.

The similarities between sport and organised religion are striking. There is a specific vocabulary associated with both and both require faith, devotion, worship, ritual, dedication, sacrifice, commitment, spirit, suffering, festival, and celebration. The singing of a team anthem or chant at a sporting event has a similar psychological effect on participants to the singing of a hymn in church.

Many prominent sports stars acknowledge their religious affiliations publicly with a signing of the cross or similar act occurring just prior to a sporting event happening.

Christian-turned-Muslim Mohammad Yousuf (formerly Yousuf Youhana) did not need a dedicated prayer room to give thanks after scoring a century for Pakistan against England at Lord’s in 2006. He simply knelt on the pitch towards Mecca.

Australian horse trainer Bart Cummings, a past student Marist Brothers Sacred Heart College in Adelaide, did not need a dedicated prayer room at the racetrack to give thanks for winning 12 Melbourne Cups.

In a country where cricket is nothing short of a religion, sportsmen, politicians and the public across India have prayed for cricketer Yuvraj Singh’s speedy recovery from cancer but not in prayer rooms at each ground.

World heavyweight boxer George Foreman did not need a prayer room in the stadium to achieve his successes but he quit boxing in 1977 and became a minister of religion.

Queensland supporters will salivate at the sight of the physique of 105kg Greg Inglis at Etihad Stadium moving at the pace of a top sprinter. As he thunders down the field his opponents could be forgiven for dropping to their knees in prayer, and maybe a prayer room at the ground will give them somewhere to hide.

Irascible and retired Melbourne Catholic priest and lover of sport Father Bob Maguire may have the answer. He suggests the entire ground be turned into a prayer room and use the scoreboard to encourage people to pray.

Perhaps a multi-faith Sportsman’s Prayer could be displayed.

And if we should win, let it be by the code
With my faith and my honour held high;
And if we should lose, let me stand by the road,
And cheer as the winners go by.

Ian Wallace is Maroons Supporter.

Most commented


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    • acotrel says:

      06:23am | 21/05/12

      Perhaps it is a tribal thing like line dancing ?  Can you imagine the impact of a powerful combination of sport, religion and line dancing ? That might boost the TV ratings !

    • Tedd says:

      07:18am | 21/05/12

      “sport, religion and line dancing” - that combination has existed for millennia: its called a crusade, or war.

    • adam says:

      07:58am | 21/05/12

      how come line dancers never smile while dancing?

      You’d imagine they dance for fun, but seem not to be having any> Is it because the huge belt buckles dig into their abdomins?

    • wayne says:

      06:57am | 21/05/12

      Mohammad Yousuf once described as “the only Christian in the Pakistani cricket team”. Don’t know the guy but I doubt he was ever a practicing, Bible believing Christian. The term Christian came from his ethnic background rather than his own personal beliefs. And Bart Cummings? So he went to a Catholic school 70 years ago, like millions of others. Does that make him automatically “religious”?

    • Robinoz says:

      07:15am | 21/05/12

      At least sport is based on something tangible and not superstitious nonsense. Sporting groups may fight occasionally, which is ridiculous, but at least they don’t hate women, bomb people and want to take over the planet.

      I’ll vote for sport any day.

    • wingnut says:

      09:52am | 21/05/12

      My thought’s exactly, it’s real.

    • stephen says:

      07:27am | 21/05/12

      I look forward to darts, pool, and Penthouse Pet comps at a local Mosque, and if Muslim sporting fans want to pray they can do it at home before they reach the stadium.

      pa Sheez, Mohammad never heard, I’m sure, of so much fuss at a sporting venue such as this.

    • Joan says:

      07:59am | 21/05/12

      Australians told to take out Christian religion as we have always known it out of schools and other public places - yet in public functions/space increasingly aboriginal rites and prayer rooms allowed to bloom where Christians have been kicked out.

    • Tedd says:

      08:34am | 21/05/12

      err. no. Joan.  Schools are different to football facilities.

      But it is surprising how much pandering is going on.

      I agree with facilitating aboriginal rites, though.

    • fml says:

      08:40am | 21/05/12

      Sounds like you guys need another crusade or inquisition to mix things up a bit.

    • acotrel says:

      09:16am | 21/05/12

      ‘I agree with facilitating aboriginal rites, though. ‘

      Can you corroborate that ?

    • acotrel says:

      09:20am | 21/05/12

      ‘I agree with facilitating aboriginal rites, though. ‘

      Have you got corroborating evidence for that comment ?

    • Tedd says:

      09:31am | 21/05/12

      Are you playing on corroboree? wink

      I’ll bite anyway - I think aboriginal traditions and customs deserve recognition, preservation, & respect; and certainly ought not be trampled by traditions and beliefs brought to Australia in the last 200 yrs.

    • TChong says:

      09:34am | 21/05/12

      Would a didgeree do?
      ( with thanks to Austen Tayshus)

    • David says:

      08:31am | 21/05/12

      Wow, I actually agree with Jeff Kennett.

    • acotrel says:

      09:22am | 21/05/12

      Have you seen Federation Square ? it’s a monument to his brain !

    • subotic P. Manning says:

      08:34am | 21/05/12

      Tebow, where are you?

    • Geoff Cass says:

      08:38am | 21/05/12

      When I was living/working in Saudi Arabia, it was made quite clear to me that the requirment for prayer might be five times a day, but that it was quite acceptable and actually common occurance for the prayers to be held only three times a day.  And rthat this is totally acceptable to Allah !!

    • egg says:

      11:43am | 21/05/12

      @Geoff, when did you live in Saudi Arabia? When I was there (‘91 - ‘93), everything shut down during prayer calls and it was mandatory five times a day.

    • iansand says:

      08:51am | 21/05/12

      What has been removed by the conversion to a prayer room?  What was there before that will so sorely be missed?

      If nothing, who gives a rats whether there is a prayer room or not?  Or whether 2 or 200 people use it.

    • Monty says:

      08:53am | 21/05/12

      Not to sound cynical (but I will). But prayer rooms at sports stadiums has nothing to do with religion or inclusiveness or multiculturalism. Its about filling more seats at the game. By giving practicing muslims a place to pray in the stadium, removing one of the big obstacles (praying at certain times of the day) keeping them from attending conveniently.

    • TChong says:

      09:38am | 21/05/12

      But all for the good.
      the faithful get to do what they need, and the NRL gets the punters thru the turnstile.
      Wins all round.

    • acotrel says:

      09:38am | 21/05/12

      They shouldn’t allow the Muslims to pray at sports events.  It might give one team an unfair advantage.

    • Monty says:

      10:36am | 21/05/12

      For the record, I’m not criticising prayer rooms. I think its good, but I don’t for a second believe this comes from altruistic motivations.

    • andy says:

      10:01am | 21/05/12

      Its a bloody room. If this was about anything other than Islam, nobody would care or even know about it.

    • patsy says:

      10:20am | 21/05/12

      My atheist fiance goes all religious every time he watches the West Tigers play.  He throws his arms in the air and shouts “Oh, God.” or “Jesus.”

    • TChong says:

      11:18am | 21/05/12

      big grins on friday, then . a victory by more than 1 point, not in golden time , isnt the usual Tigers play.
      profanities and deities are to be heard from many Tigers fans , this season.

    • jimbo says:

      10:56am | 21/05/12

      Nice ooem Ian.  Who wrote it?

    • Anjuli says:

      10:58am | 21/05/12

      How long is a game ? Now that there is a prayer room at the Etihad stadium some Muslims will make a statement by praying just to make a point, for goodness sake they could do all their praying before and after the game.Again bowing to the minority.

    • miloinacup says:

      11:00am | 21/05/12

      I look forward to reading all the ignorant and stupid comments about Islam in this thread.

      Cue: all Muslims want to bomb the west! They all hate women! They all want to force their laws onto us! Rant rant rant!

      Who gives a flying fuck if sports stadiums provide prayer rooms for Muslims? Is it going to affect you? NO. My guess is you won’t even bloody notice them. I am not a supporter of organised religion but I will only rally against it if they are planning on implementing something that actually affects me (i.e. legislation that will be imposed on everyone, not just those who believe in said religion). THIS particular issue does not affect ANYONE except those who wish to use the prayer room, and the only people whinging about it are the ones who like to make irrelevant things their business.

      If this was any other religion, I bet no one would care.

    • subotic says:

      11:49am | 21/05/12

      I look forward to all the vertically challenged amputee lesbian muslim feminazi apologists with all their ignorant and stupid comments about the Evil West in this thread…

    • Matt F says:

      12:00pm | 21/05/12

      Well said miloinacup. The prayer room at the MCG has apparently been there for around 5 years without anybody complaining.

      @RyaN - Seyit never mentioned Australian Muslims in that article.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      12:11pm | 21/05/12

      “If this was any other religion, I bet no one would care.”

      For my part, I despise pandering to human superstition and ignorance.  So, yes, I would complain about any other religion.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to waste time discussing peoples imaginary friends?  How much better would humanity be if we didn’t indulge mass delusions?

    • RyaN says:

      12:15pm | 21/05/12

      @Matt F: Fair enough, Australian Muslims must be the other half of Muslims that don’t directly support a terrorist organisation that seeks to wipe all non-Muslims off the face of the planet.

      Oh look a flying pig!

    • Matt F says:

      01:36pm | 21/05/12

      RyaN - I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that Muslims living in Australia, or another Western country, would be generally more supportive of Western culture then those in predominantly Muslim countries.

    • RyaN says:

      02:13pm | 21/05/12

      @Matt F: Well since Mr Kuranda Seyit is the director of the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations it would be fair to say that he is commenting on the Muslim community which he knows? The same Muslim community in which he lives? The same Muslim community that happens to be in Australia?

    • Matt F says:

      02:30pm | 21/05/12

      Possibly but not nescessarily. He never specifically mentions the Australian Muslim community at all so it’s entirely possible that he was referring to the wider, global community. You’re making an awfully big assumption

    • RyaN says:

      03:02pm | 21/05/12

      @Matt F: Possibly, but you might possibly be doing the same.

    • Dieter Moeckel says:

      11:38am | 21/05/12

      In my youth good cinemas had soundproof mothers’ rooms where recalcitrant babies could be comforted and fed.
      I see a comfort room at sporting facilities as nothing less. A place where one can go and do something that one does not really want to do in public, like for instance parry, or just sit in abject disappointment or what ever.
      While this in no way actually compares - many Asian countries have non-segregated different style ablutions but still provide a segregated western type toilets.
      To accommodate different cultures in a multicultural pluralistic society simply shows respect,  liberal open-mindedness and inclusion.
      After all if you have no use for a dedicated quiet space you don’t have to0use it. It does not affect you in any way at all - it only gives the irrational intolerant a reason to rail against Muslims.

    • adam says:

      12:23pm | 21/05/12

      Dieter, theres nothing liberal open minded or inclusive about the footy. You’re either a barracker for “my team” or you’re wrong and must be crushed. And that’s as it should be.

      In all seriousness, I’ll be storming the ramparts the minute the call to prayer stops the game, whatever game happens to be on. And yes, the church bells sounding during the Tassie footy game should also be silenced.

      i wanna a room to practise my Voodoo rites. and subsidised chickens

    • fml says:

      01:02pm | 21/05/12

      “i wanna a room to practise my Voodoo rites. and subsidised chickens “

      the rooms are open faith so go nuts.

    • adam says:

      01:47pm | 21/05/12

      sweeeet fml! where can I pick up my chickens?

    • Monty says:

      12:19pm | 21/05/12

      If anything more muslims showing up at AFL and NRL games might stop the mouthbreather brigade harping on about them “not integrating into Aussie culture, they dont drink VB and eat snaggas!”

    • RyaN says:

      12:45pm | 21/05/12

      @Monty: If you want integration, cancel the ability for ANY Australian to hold multiple citizenship and/or passport.

    • fml says:

      01:00pm | 21/05/12


      That is a knee jerk reaction that won’t solve anything. Remember the old Adage, you catch more flies with honey thank vinegar.

    • RyaN says:

      02:19pm | 21/05/12

      @fml: Why is it a knee jerk reaction wanting us to be a community that we are all in and all are part of?

      In my honest opinion, the allowing of multiple citizenships is a large part of the community divide. People classify themselves as their other citizenship while living here, thinking that somehow it makes them better than the average Aussie.

      Better still, if there is no multiple citizenship, when the chips are down they cannot just use their other citizenship to run like the cowardly fence sitters that they are.
      A very good demonstration would be the Lebanese people who all of a sudden became true blue Aussies in 2006 when the bombs started falling in Lebanon.
      I am sure they have magically again become Lebanese since their rescue!

    • RyaN says:

      02:29pm | 21/05/12

      @fml: Oh and fml, I am not looking to catch flies, I am looking to get rid of the shit that is attracting them.

    • firefly says:

      03:40pm | 21/05/12

      Spot on Ryan. I remember when the bombs started falling, suddenly those Lebanese couldnt become Australian fast enough! My whole work thought it was hilarious to see them come crawling to get back here when they generally show little integration & respect for this country. You are right about duel citizenship though.It should be scrapped. You are either part of this country or you arent. Its simple.

    • Yawnnn says:

      12:20pm | 21/05/12

      What a disgusting photo; nothing like viewing that when eating lunch, whewwww!  Why must they bare their arses to the sky?  Certainly not carbon neutral, eh?

    • Sam says:

      12:24pm | 21/05/12

      The prayer room is the start. Next they will have to schedule games at ‘pray friendly’ times. you wait and see

    • Luke says:

      06:42pm | 21/05/12

      So they pray… So what? Good on em for getting into the Aussie spirit in their own way!


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