Euro 2016 Christian footballers XI

Author: John McKenna

Euro 2016 Christian footballers XI

John McKenna selects his Euro 2016 fantasy team of Christian footballers.

It’s here. Euro 2016 is under way and promises to be yet another football tournament where players openly display their faith.

The football pitch is today one of the few places in modern culture where the Christian faith is still openly displayed, with players frequently crossing themselves before entering their pitch, and lifting their eyes and hands heavenwards when they score – not to mention offering up prayers when it come to penalties.

In tribute to this, below is a starting 11 of players who will be at the European Championships in France who are also open about their Christian faith:



Gianluigi Buffon – The Italian veteran and captain is open about his Catholic faith, having met with Pope Francis prior to the last World Cup, and made pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Medjugorje.





Vedran Ćorluka – Croatian international Ćorluka was born in Bosnia, but his family fled to Zagreb when he was six during the Balkans war. Ćorluka has spoken of the importance of the church to his family, helping to rebuild the church in his Bosnian village after the war.




Per Mertesacker – Arsenal and Germany defender Per Mertesacker is, according to Christian Today, an ambassador for the Evangelical Youth and Child Hospice in Wilhelmshaven.




John O’Shea – Sunderland and Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea is a former altar boy who has spoken openly about his faith, and could regularly be seen attending Mass in Cheshire when he was playing for Manchester United.





Cristiano Ronaldo – Alongside devout Catholic and Argentine international Lionel Messi, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world’s most-feted footballers. While his faith may not be as evident as Messi’s, Ronaldo was raised Catholic and has been photographed on several occasions wearing Rosaries. He has also spoken freely about how his footballing talent is a gift from God.




Andrés Iniesta – Spain’s midfield maestro Andrés Iniesta has won the past two European Championships. He is a devout Catholic who, prior to him scoring the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup, promised to walk northern Spain’s famous pilgrimage of the Way of St. James – El Camino de Santiago in Spanish.




David Silva – Another devout Catholic in the Spanish team, after he won the World Cup in 2010 Manchester City’s David Silva returned to his home in the Canary Islands to take part in his hometown’s celebrations of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.




Raheem Sterling – Silva’s Manchester City teammate Raheem Sterling will be at the European Championships with England despite a season ravaged by injury. He has been known to tweet Bible verses and statements like “Trust in Him” on twitter, and has described in interviews how he prays before every match.





Daniel Sturridge – Like Sterling, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge frequently takes to twitter to praise God and looks heavenwards when he scores. Perhaps the most famous example of his praise-filled celebrations came during the 2014 World Cup when, after scoring the equaliser for England versus Italy, TV cameras clearly showed Sturridge pointing to the sky saying “I love you Jesus, I praise you father.”




Christian Benteke – Belgium and Liverpool striker Christian Benteke, like his club teammate Sturridge, points to the sky whenever he scores. When asked about this habit when he was an Aston Villa player, Benteke told the Birmingham Mail: “I do the celebration because I believe in God. So when I score the first thing I have to do is say thank-you to him. He has given me the power to score. I am a very religious person. I pray before the game and I pray after the game. I thank him for the good things that he has given me. Before each match I pray to him to make sure that nothing bad happens to all 22 players on the pitch. That is important. I ask for him to look after everyone. Before we are footballers, we are men, we are people together.”



Wayne Rooney – In his early career the England captain acquired a reputation for less-than-savoury activities off the field. However, since becoming a father Rooney has returned to the Catholic faith of his childhood and has become increasingly open in talking about his faith. He now lifts his hands and eyes to heaven every time he scores.




If all this has left you asking whether football is an appropriate thing to pray about, or whether the pitch is an appropriate place to play, then try reading this earlier CCR article: Praying over football – right or wrong?



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