Closeup — José Luis Vidigal

The second of 12 children, including four who played soccer, José Luis Vidigal understands what it means to fight and jostle for attention. During an 18-year professional career, Vidigal spent the majority of his career in Italy and Portugal before retiring in 2009. In between he represented Portugal in 28 games, including seven on the U-21 team, six during the 1996 Olympics where Portugal finished fourth, and 15 from 2000-02. That last stint included four games in UEFA Euro 2000, including the semifinal loss to France. But the most memorable and most exciting game was a 3-2 comeback victory against England. Down 2-0, Portugal scored three goals and went on to win their Group going 3-0 in the process. In the knockout round, Portugal won its first game, 2-0, against Turkey before losing 2-1 to France in the semifinals. “I’ll never forget this game (against England) because we were in Read More

Closeup — Juan Carlos Valerón

Juan Valeron’s faith journey is a great example of how new believers often face trials early in their walk with Christ. As one of Spain’s most decorated professional soccer players for the past 15 years, Valeron has led his national team to big victories including two European Championships, the Spanish Cup, and the coveted FIFA World Cup (2002). But his victories on the field have been hampered by family pain off the field, starting with the death of his brother at age 30, followed by the passing of his father. “We were quite a united family, and losing him was devastating,” he shares. “It was particularly difficult to see my parents struggle. But God graciously cared for us, and I am certain that without His help, my parents couldn’t have coped with their loss. Unfortunately, the pain deepened when soon after, my father also passed away.” In his pain, Valeron Read More

Closeup — Lúcio

Brazilian captain Lucimar Ferreira da Silva (or Lucio as he’s known throughout the soccer world) was reminiscing about Brazil’s 2002 World Cup victory, his thoughts went back to the feelings he had when he helped his soccer-crazed country win the world’s most coveted title in sports. It also caused him to think about the most important part of his life. “In Brazil, everyone dreams of this,” he says of winning the World Cup. “Since 2002, I have been able to participate in this great desire. We were a great group and it was a very important moment in my life and in my family’s life. Once again, we had the opportunity to thank God for the whole world to see. Without a doubt, this was more important than the title.” They showed the world their passion for God by taking off their jerseys and revealing shirts underneath that had short Read More

Feature story — When Soccer Becomes An Avenue

To Japanese footballer Jun Marques Davidson, religion always seemed like far too complicated of a thing. The rules. The regulations. The structure. Raised in Tokyo, Japan—a country where only 1 percent of its citizens are considered to be practicing Christians—Davidson was like much of the population. He had little interest in Christianity, even though his mother was a Christian. Instead, he had his sights set on one thing: soccer. There were signs that he could be something special early in life, and at 15 years old he left Japan to play soccer at an international school in England. Success, money, and fame became his primary drive in life. Attaining superstar status in the soccer sphere became his goal. But it was in England, while he was alone in a foreign country, barely able to communicate, hardly knowing anyone, that he realized there may be more to life than soccer. “It Read More

Feature story — A Gracious Peace

With four knee injuries in his career, it would be understandable if Marcos Senna was burned out, discouraged or disappointed with soccer. But it’s quite the opposite for the Spanish soccer star. “I have had four knee injuries, but with God’s help, I think I have coped with them well, and even experienced joy in the midst of them,” he shares. “I don’t know of another player with similar injuries who has been able to continue playing at the same level as I have. I give thanks, honor, and glory to God for the strength He has given me.” “I am at peace. I know God has a purpose in our lives. If I am injured, it is for a reason that I am injured and I understand that I will get better in time. I understand that God…will keep looking after me. And for that reason I am very Read More

Feature story – Breath of Life

Growing up in a family split in their religious beliefs, Alexander Samedov decided he would live his life in his own way and on his own terms. Until trouble came and he was left searching for answers. Samedov, who has represented Russia internationally on the U-21 and senior soccer national teams and has also played on several top Russian club teams, started having trouble in his soccer career and in his life. That’s when the questions started, first in his mind and then verbally. “My father is a Muslim. He’s Azerbaijani. My mom is (Russian) Orthodox; she’s (ethnically) Russian. Going back to the very beginning, I grew up between two camps, so to speak,” Samedov shared in a television interview. “My father always told me that I was a Muslim. My mom didn’t agree with that.  I didn’t really go in either direction. I lived my life in my own Read More

Feature story — Fulfilling A Promise

Growing up playing in the streets of Gioia del Colle, Italy, Nicola Legrottaglie had one dream: To play soccer and play at the highest level. “I really didn’t dream of being anything else,” says Legrottaglie. “I started playing in my hometown, a small town in Apulia, in southern Italy. Kids thought about football because there were no other career choices, there were no other areas to dream about making it big. After all, we all played football in the streets, so it was the only thing I ever dreamed about as a child. There were never other dreams.” For Legrottaglie, though, playing soccer is more than winning titles or receiving praise from passionate fans. “For me, it’s another way of proclaiming Jesus’s name,” he says. “Everything I do, everything anyone does, who is a Christian, must be done to proclaim the name of Jesus, to give Him glory. Not for Read More

Feature story — Unconditional Acceptance

Usually, performance leads to love. If you perform well in school, your teacher may tell you, “Nice job.” If you perform well in your career, your boss might give you a raise. If you perform well in athletics, your coach may give you more playing time. The problem is that sometimes this performance-driven mindset influences our spiritual lives as well. We think there is something we must do to earn God’s love. We think there is something we must change before we approach God’s throne. It’s a common mindset and even an understandable way of thinking, because this is how much of the world works. And yet, when it comes to our communion with God, a performance-driven mindset has the potential of thrusting us into a monotonous cycle of constantly beating ourselves up and never being good enough. If salvation is rooted in performance, then where is there any room Read More

Feature story — Unmasking The World

It’s been a wild year for Colombian soccer star Radamel Falcao. Falcao, considered one of the top strikers in the world, was acquired by Monaco in May of 2013 in a transfer deal from Atletico Madrid worth $80 million. That’s right, $80 million. Then, things got more exciting. Three months after his contract, Falcao and his wife, Argentinean singer Lorelei Taron, had their first child, Dominique Garcia Taron. New contract. New kid. Not a bad year for the 28-year-old Falcao who has become a symbol of the Columbian national team. Falcao—known as “El Tigre” or the “Tiger”—has everything in the world’s eyes. Soccer enthusiasts gush over his footskills and ability to finish offensively. Admirers and marketers love his look—his friendly face and long, black recognizable hair. Teams appreciate his stellar off-the-field reputation; he’s a family man, devout Christian, and a leader for Champions for Christ. Professionally. Financially. Personally. He seems Read More

Feature Story — Breaking The Mold

Lying in bed for two months with a broken neck, 18-year-old Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite made a list of 10 goals. Nevermind the fact that he was uncertain to ever play again after fracturing his sixth vertebra at the bottom of a waterslide. And forget cautious optimism. These were audacious dreams even for a boy raised on the soccer mania of Brazil—especially one who had needed a medical program to spur his stunted growth and who was yet to crack the starting lineup of the junior squad of São Paulo Football Club. The list began with “Return to soccer” and scaled upward to finish with “Compete in the World Cup” and “Transfer to a big club in Italy or Germany.” In January 2001 about two weeks after returning to soccer he was called up to São Paulo’s professional team. On March 7, with 10 minutes remaining, he was subbed Read More

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