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Champions League Final: Faith On Display

Author: John McKenna

Picture: Flickr

Champions League Final: Faith On Display

John McKenna points out players from the 2019 Champions League final who regularly put their faith on display.

An estimated 400 million people in more than 200 countries watched this year’s UEFA Champions League final between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

With that size of audience, playing in a Champions League final is more than an opportunity to show the world your talents. For Christian footballers, this match also represents an unprecedented moment to be witnesses to their faith.

So which footballers regularly put their faith on display?

Brazilian Evangelists

Brazilian players, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker and Tottenham attacker Lucas Moura, often offer up praise and glory on the pitch. 

Alisson can be seen on his knees lifting his hands heavenwards before every match. He also regularly posts religious messages to his millions of followers on Instagram. His Instagram account bio simply reads “God is faithful”.

Similarly, Lucas Moura’s Instagram bio says “Servant of Jesus -  1 Corinthians 2:9” – a reference to this line from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” He also posts Instagram stories of worship nights at the south London Brazilian Pentecostal church that he attends.

When Moura scored his stunning second-half hat-trick against Ajax to send Spurs in the final, every goal celebration saw him point upwards and offer up praise. After the match he shared a photo of himself on his knees on the pitch, captioned with the words: “‘For with God nothing shall be impossible’ – Luke 1:37.”

And in a post-match interview with Brazilian TV, Moura broke down in tears saying: “It is difficult to explain what I am feeling. God is wonderful. I always say that he [God] surprises me. After the first half, when we were losing 2-0, I believed we could reverse the result and I was praying to God, and he gave me this amazing game.”

God In The margins

Moura’s hat-trick in the semi-final was even more incredible because his first team appearances have been sporadic this season.

Indeed, many of the players who are happy to display their faith are not their clubs’ star performers. Instead they are – appropriately enough for a Saviour born in a stable and who socialised with people on the edges of society – players on the fringes and the margins of the Liverpool and Tottenham squads.

Belgian striker Divock Origi scored two goals in Liverpool’s 4-0 semi-final defeat of Barcelona, but would not have been playing if it were not for injuries to other attackers.

Like Moura, Origi also points upwards after scoring, and in an interview on the Liverpool F.C. website, he credited his faith for helping him persevere through some difficult periods during his time at the club: “My religion, being a Christian, has values of working hard, staying focused on the right things that help you in life. Of course you’re going to slip. I made mistakes. But those mistakes helped me and still help me these days.”

Other fringe players include: Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, a devout Christian who is friends with Hillsong worship leader Joel Houston; Tottenham’s Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez, whose Instagram bio says “God in front”; and Spurs’ Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama, who always reads one or two Bible verses before each game.

Christian Coaches

It is not only the players who were able to witness to their faith in the Champions League final.

Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp is an evangelical Christian and unapologetic about his faith: "To be a believer, but not to want to talk about it - I do not know how it would work! If anyone asks me about my faith, I give information.”

Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino is far less outspoken about his faith and is reportedly a non-practising Catholic. However, very early in his managerial career, it was his childhood faith that he turned to when facing an unprecedented challenge.

In 2009, Pochettino was coach of Espanyol – the other team from the city of Barcelona – and his side were in imminent danger of being relegated. Believing that it would take a miracle to save his side, Pochettino made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Black Madonna at Montserrat.

He walked 12km from his home in Barcelona to the Benedictine monastery in Montserrat which houses the statue of the black Virgin Mary and infant Jesus. There he asked for divine intervention and – miraculously – Espanyol started winning and survived, escaping relegation.

There will be many fans of both sides who were similarly praying for divine intervention in the outcome of this all-English Champions League final, which Liverpool won 2-0.

Declared interest: John McKenna is a long-suffering Tottenham Hotspur fan. However, ccr.org.uk editor Andy Drozdziak is a slightly less long-suffering Liverpool fan, so between us we hope this article offers a balanced point of view!

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