Summer is here and this year eyes around the globe will be on a athletes coming together for the World Cup. The first World Cup was held in 1930 with only 13 teams. Today, it has expanded to 32 teams competing in the final tournament with over 200 teams from around the world seeking to qualify. We interviewed Major League Soccer (MLS) Goalkeeper Tim Howard, Korean soccer star Y.P. Lee and Sierra Leone native Teteh Bangura in 2014 on how their faith affects their outlook on the sport.
MLS Goalkeeper Tim Howard opened up on how his faith affects his perspective on the sport and what his prayers look like.
“It doesn’t affect the way I physically go out and perform. I certainly ask the Lord for things in prayer before the game. Most of the time, if not all the time, it’s for the ability to perform to my standards. That may be in a win or a loss, but to play well, injury free, and to do things in the right way. In competition and in sports, sometimes emotions take over and you may lose your focus a little. It’s important to have intent going into a game tan dot play for the glory of God…The funny part about all that was we played Mexico to qualify for the World Cup. And one of my arch rivals is Chicarito, [Mexican star forward, Manchester United]…He prays before the game, and I pray before the game. He was over on the other side of the field praying and I was praying, and I just thought, ‘Boy, Gods got a lot on his plate right now.’ I know what he is praying for – we will see. It was an interesting thought to be thinking about just two seconds before the whistle blew. It just goes to show that we are praying to the same God and it’s about Him. I thought it was a pretty cool illustration.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
YP Lee shares how his faith affects his perspective on the soccer field.
“Christianity not only changed my perspective on the football pitch [field], but in my life overall. It guides the way I look at life and how I live life, but it’s difficult to pinpoint specific situations on the football pitch. The way I look at different situations now is very different from when I had no faith. For example, before I believed in God, I would look at other people who do bad things and it was hard to understand why people did these kinds of things. After having faith in God, the way I look at things, I now have more understanding. Because everyone is a sinner, including myself. When I understood that about people it was easier to understand why people do the things they do. Through these thoughts my understanding of other people has broadened. I try to be more open with people because I think a lot about these things in my life of what is good and what is bad. It is a guideline in my life to say what is good and what is bad. Before, I never understood why people in the world did bad things, after believing in Jesus, I immediately realized why people do what they do.”
Teteh Bangura reflects on what his experience was like playing for the Cleveland City Stars.
“When I first came to the team, nearly 100 percent of them were Christians. It was a small team and the things we would share together amongst us were amazing. We would have Bible studies every week and that was a nice thing for the team. Everyone was willing to do it. We would all sit together and read the Bible, then maybe have dinner or something. It was special and different from other clubs. I didn’t have other responsibilities. At other clubs, my job was to come in the morning, do my training session and then on weekends, play a match and go home. Most of the time, it is very difficult to come together as a group. With Cleveland City, this was very different. We shared things about each other’s lives. That is one thing I always remember. Most teams in Europe only come together once or twice in a whole season, but we came together when things were not going well like when we were losing. Then we would need to do team building to turn it around. With Cleveland, we did this stuff every week, whether we were winning or losing.”
Bring the World Cup to your backyard! Grab a group of friends or your teammates and cheer on your favorite teams and players with a viewing party. In between games or during halftime head to the backyard or park for a pick-up game of soccer. If there aren’t enough people you can designate a goal and have a shootout.
To read our entire interview with Tim Howard and YP Lee click here.