God of Soccer: Myth or Reality
God of Soccer: Myth or Reality

God of Soccer: Myth or Reality

Like most fans, you must have heard rumors about spiritual forces swaying performance. From the now-infamous Benfica curse to Adebayor believing his family had jazzed him, there are many claims of the spiritual influencing sports results. We saw Fernando Torres go from being the best center-forward in his generation to a laughing stock. There had to be some spiritual involvement there, right? Some results don’t add up, something more must be at play.

It is common to see athletes credit their sports successes and losses to a deity. Be it Kaka with his ‘I belong to Jesus’ shirt or Muslim players praying after scoring a goal. The question is now thus – ‘does God influence sports outcomes?’ The simple answer is yes, just not in the way you think. God is not up in heaven playing FIFA with real-life players.

There are two views people have about the role God has in sports. Some believe nothing can happen in this world without the will of an omnipotent God. Others believe God has better things to worry about than Werner missing easy chances or Willian flopping at Arsenal. Both sides point to successful athletes that either attribute success to God or skill. Sports fans pray for God to influence results their way.

While some believe nothing can happen in this world without the will of an omnipotent God. Others believe God has better things to worry about than Werner missing easy chances or Willian flopping at Arsenal. Click To Tweet

First thing, the Bible is full of sports metaphors and sport-based wording. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 uses the analogy of running a race for Christian conduct, and verse 26 continues the sports theme using boxing. Paul uses the effort athletes put in as a metaphor for diligence and self-control. Even the Bible recognizes that success in sports relies on training and self-control.

Proverbs 22:29 says that the diligent (skillful) man would stand before kings. Ecclesiastes 9:10 also encourages diligence in work. These two Bible verses also show that the Bible recognizes the role of skill and hard work in success. So sports results depend on athletes’ diligence and skill. This then begs the question – ‘where does God come in?’

James 1:17 says that God is a good gift giver and Matthew 5:45 says God favors both the just and the unjust. God’s gifts are the inherent abilities unique to each person. We all have strengths, things we are good at and enjoy doing. For a select few, these strengths are in athletic activities. In this sense, we can say God influences sporting outcomes through benevolent talent-giving.

Beyond talent, there is evidence that suggests that the mere belief in God encourages better performance. Victory and defeat in sports are separated by the tiniest margins. A 2019 study by Pew Central says that people who believe in God are generally happier and in better shape. When the margins between victory and defeat are so thin, every advantage counts.

The takeaway here is that God does not remote control athletes because you wish it. Sports reward competitors based on how much they put in – with rare exceptions Click To Tweet

I’m sure that is not what you were expecting to read. The takeaway here is that God does not remote control athletes because you wish it. Sports reward competitors based on how much they put in – with rare exceptions. I am sure this wouldn’t stop you from praying for your fave teams. It certainly wouldn’t stop me – Chelsea can use all the help they can get.

Joel is like a real life Bruce Wayne – an engineer by day and a (super)writer by night. He is passionate about God’s will; his desire is for the whole word to experience God’s love. Joel loves having tough conversations where people express their views as he believes it is a major way to grow collectively.
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