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Watching from the sidelines

Players miss out on World Cup action, writes Andrew Stone

Sometimes experience, it seems, counts for little

THE domestic football season may have ended last month but, either to fans’ great delight or to the dread of those who see it as anything but a beautiful game, the Fifa World Cup is kicking off on Thursday (14 June).

England fans will have to wait until the 14th match of the 64-game tournament before they have the chance to cheer on their team. The first fixture for the team with the three lions on their shirt is against Tunisia on 18 June in Volgograd.

England are the only team from the British Isles to qualify for the tournament, so the players of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be staying at home this summer.

But they are not the only ones missing out on the trip to Russia. When England manager Gareth Southgate (pictured) announced his 23-man squad last month there were some notable names not included.

One of those was Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere. Also not on the list was goalkeeper Joe Hart. He had been a regular between the sticks for most of the team’s qualifying matches. But a disappointing season in the Premier League on loan at West Ham meant he was dropped from the England team. His place in the set-up was taken by Nick Pope, even though the Burnley shot-stopper had never played for England.

Sometimes experience, it seems, counts for little. Between them Wilshere and Hart had more than 100 caps for their country, but the England manager decided to include Trent Alexander-Arnold in his squad. Like Pope, the Liverpool defender had never played for England’s senior side.

Once the England players heard whether they were in the squad or not, they would have felt either elated at being included or dejected that they were not wanted. Some have missed out on their goal of playing at the World Cup.

It’s always good when we feel that we are wanted by other people. It makes us feel that we are of worth. However, if we are told that we are not wanted, it can lead to feelings of rejection, isolation and not being valued.

There is someone, though, who always values us and sees us as important. We are loved and cherished by God, who has promised always to be with us. In the Bible, one of God’s followers, Joshua, was given this assurance: ‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ (Deuteronomy 31:8 New International Version).

Even though Joshua faced tough and challenging situations when other people doubted him and his judgment, God never left him and never gave up on him. God values us as much as he valued Joshua, and he wants to support us in our lives. We just need to put our faith in him.

God will never drop us or let us down. He is always on our side.

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