Players show faith at World Cup

Australian striker John Aloisi does not think it is fair to ask God to help him score a goal in tomorrow's do or die clash with Italy.

"I've always called on my faith, not just when I play but every day - it's part of my life that's important. It's not like I ask God to help me score a goal, because I don't think that's fair - and I don't think He would do that," the Australian striker explained to Kairos.

"But I thank Him every day for everything I've got in my life, especially my family, and I know He's there with me when I'm playing," Aloisi continued.

Kairos also notes that the Socceroos are a living representation of the best of Australia's multicultural society gifted to the nation through waves of immigration. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts: Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, German, Lebanese, Croatian, Polynesian, Italian, Melanesian, Greek.

Breaking through to the World Cup finals was only possible because Aloisi secured Australia's berth with a single match-winning penalty goal against Uruguay last December.

Married to Angela with two daughters, Alisia and Katia, John Aloisi was born into a Catholic Australian-Italian family in Adelaide. Today he is a star player with Spanish club Alaves where fans have nicknamed the six-footer "Kangaroo."

Despite his weekend football commitments, John Aloisi actively practices his Catholic faith. "If we can't get to Mass we still go into a church and say a little prayer and we kneel down with the children each night to say our prayers," he told Kairos.

Aloisi is one of a number of World Cup players who make no secret of their faith. Catholic News Service also reports that a Dutch bishops' spokesman welcomed the launch of an online contest to elect a Christian soccer star during the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

"There's a lot of resistance to the idea that a footballer can also be a Christian," said Pieter Kohnen, spokesman for the Utrecht-based Dutch bishops' conference. "It's good to show that players who'll become superstars during this tournament are also spiritual people who believe in Christ. It's a great way of evangelising where you wouldn't normally expect it."

Gristelijk, a group of Dutch Catholic and Protestant teachers and lecturers, published a list of 11 leading Christian soccer stars on its Web site (www.gristelijk.nl). Visitors can vote for their favorite in the site's right column.

Kohnen said he hoped the players - who include several Catholics - would speak openly about their faith.

"Your personal religious beliefs aren't something you draw attention to at that level," Kohnen said in a 12 June telephone interview with Catholic News Service. "But even here in the Netherlands, players often make the sign of the cross when they step onto the pitch or score goals. Any personal feedback, explaining the gesture - why they want to thank God at such a moment - would be helpful."

Unveiling the Web site initiative, Gristelijk said it was inviting votes for World Cup players who showed they are "not ashamed about their Christian faith" during the June 9-July 9 tournament in Germany.

The 11 on the list include three Brazilians, two South Koreans and two Dutch players, as well as two US players, Brian McBride and Tim Howard, and a Ghanaian, Sammy Kuffour. The list also includes Andranik Teymourian, the only Christian on the Iranian team.

Speaking after arriving in Germany on 4 June, Teymourian, 23, told Agence France-Presse, "In terms of being a religious minority, I've got no problem, and relations are really good at the heart of the team."

Socceroo Aloisi strikes in good faith (Kairos 25/6/06)
Dutch churchman praises online contest for Christian soccer star (Catholic News Service 13/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
John Aloisi (FIFA World Cup website)
John Aloisi (Wikipedia)
Gristelijk website

Vatican officials slam promotion of prostitution at World Cup (CathNews 9/6/06)
World Cup founder's Catholic roots (CathNews 14/6/06)

26 Jun 2006