God at the goal posts
Do religion and sport mix? Some sports people evidently think so. Players who believe in God often show it openly — some saying a prayer on the field after scoring or missing a goal, others showing off T-shirts underneath their kit bearing religious messages.
Some believe that God, or spiritual forces, take sides in sporting contests. Former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje used to hold prayer sessions for divine assistance with players before games. Evangelical Christian Jonty Rhodes once told Andrew Hudson, who was going through a lean spell with the bat: “Do your best and God will do the rest.”
Last year, AC Milan player Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (26), commonly known as Kaka, fell on his knees in prayer while revealing the slogan “I belong to Jesus” on his shirting after helping his team beat Liverpool in the Champions League. It sparked some debate among football followers across the world. The question was whether football players should confront the public with their beliefs.
According to media reports, Kaka is a devout evangelical Christian who “got religion” at the age of 12. He suffered a career-threatening spine fracture, but remarkably made a full recovery. Attributing his healing to divine intervention, he has since paid a tithe of his income to his church. Kaka is a member of Atletas de Cristo (Athletes of Christ).
Moroka Swallows goalkeeper Greg Etafia, a Roman Catholic falls to his knees every time he takes to the field of play. He told the Mail & Guardian: “I was brought up in a Christian family and I believe in prayer. God has given me talent and I have to use my talent accordingly.”
Another Absa Premiership player, Mkhanyiseli Siwahla (20) of Ajax Cape Town, who made his Premier Soccer League (PSL) debut at the age of 16, attributes his success to prayer. He is also superstitious; if he scores a goal wearing a certain pair of boots, he wears the same boots in the next game.