As the football season gets back underway, here are five soccer sensations - who are also saints.
The 30 year-old former FIFA World Player of the year and Balon D’Or winner who tasted 2002 World Cup glory with Brazil, is one of the most recognizable footballers in the World, who has used his fame to share his Christian faith with the world. Famously revealing a T-Shirt with the words- “I belong to Jesus” after AC Milan’s 2007 Champions League triumph, he celebrates every goal by throwing his arms up to the sky and thanking God for healing him from a swimming pool accident that could have paralyzed him.
At the age of 12 he decided that “faith decides whether something will happen or not”, and won respect for remaining a virgin until his marriage in 2005. His 65 million euro move to current club Real Madrid in 2009 saw him become the World’s third most expensive player. A firm believer in faith with action, the former Sao Paulo and AC Milan star, is an ‘Ambassador Against Hunger’ for the UN World Food Programme.
After he hangs up his boots he plans to become a Pastor.
The versatile Fulham left-back, capped 8 times by England, found God in 2007 but only went public with his faith last December when he too revealed a T-shirt with the words-“ I belong to Jesus’’ after scoring for Sunderland against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Synonymous with Football’s ‘bling’ culture, partying and looking good eventually came before his football. “ Five years ago all I cared about was going out, clothing and looking good. I wasn’t happy. I started thinking more about money rather than football. I’d go out with my friends after a game to nightclubs, get drunk and meet women. But I wasn’t happy”.
But a visit to a church with his girlfriend at the time changed the course of his life: “My life changed. It didn’t change straightaway. It was a gradual thing; It has been a gradual thing”. Richardson who spent 5 years at Man Utd during which he picked up a Premier League title, a League Cup and the Community Shield, is now content: “Now I have Jesus Christ in my life and I feel good in my heart”.
Known as the ‘Little Pea’, the dimunitive 24 year- old Mexican burst onto the Premier League scene in 2010, netting 20 times as the Red Devils picked up the 2010/11 Premier League title. After a difficult second season where injuries and International call ups hampered his effectiveness despite scoring 12 times, he will be looking to emulate his first season at Old Trafford.
A born goalscorer he has found the net 25 times in 38 appearances, but scoring goals is not the only thing he likes to do: “I like to pray”. Before every game he gets down on his knees in the centre circle and prays - “I like to ask God to take care of me, because he gave me the opportunity to play”. Hernandez who recently became a Mexican Ambassador for Unicef, a role in which will see him participate in a number of activities to encourage kids and teenagers not to abandon their education, also prays for the protection of his team mates and the opposition. “I talk to God and I tell him to take care of the health of both teams because the worst thing for a sportsman are injuries and there are a lot of accidents on the pitch that nobody wants”.
The Everton Midfielder literally wears his faith on his sleeve: on more than one occasion after scoring he has revealed a vest with the words- “God is great’’. The South African-born Midfielder who has appeared in two World Cups and made more than 60 appearances for “Bafana, Bafana”, has experienced God’s greatness in his own life: growing up in a dangerous township on the edge of Johannesburg, where gang violence, drug dealing and shootings were a part of everyday life, God’s protective hand kept him alive and his God given footballing abilities helped him dribble his way out of his dangerous surroundings.
A strong Christian upbringing helped the 30 year-old Ex- Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Spurs star, find Christ- “My Mum is a very committed Christian and was always on my case’’, he smiles. “No-one can force you to believe, though. I just listened at Church and everything made sense”. And about the Vest- “ I wear the vest because God is truly great. He is on high. I believe he is with me and the angels are guiding me on the pitch and the vest is a way of acknowledging this”.
The QPR Central defender has recently been embroiled in a racism row with Chelsea Skipper John Terry, who was accused of racially abusing him, a charge Terry was subsequently found not guilty of in court. An FA investigation is still ongoing.
But a difficult last 10 months or so have failed to curb the former West Ham and Sunderland stars desire to start a Prayer group at Loftus road “At Sunderland we had a group who prayed. There was me, Kieran Richardson, Stephane Sessegnon, Asamoag Gyan, John Mensah, and Nedum Onuoha. Hopefully I will start building that here”.
Capped 17 times by England U21´s, Peckham-born Ferdinand revealed his Christian faith in an Interview last year- “ It’s one of the best things that have happened to me although the hardest thing is having faith in something you can’t see, but I have overcome that. I can talk about my journey and things that have happened to me. That’s why my mind is the way it is at the moment”. The brother of United star Rio who has a spiritual mentor also credited his new found faith with making him “more of a man”.
September 6th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Hefin Rhys Jones