Jesus at the Soccer Game

I thought it was overtly religious when college football quarterback Tim Tebow wore black strips under his eyes with religious phrasing during the BCS championship game:

tebow

Apparently, that’s nothing.

Check out what Brazilian soccer players Kaka (below) and Lucio did during the Confederations Cup last month:

Soccer

You may be asking: If a Brazilian people do it, can it be wrong? (Ha!)

Yes. Yes it can.

FIFA, the soccer governing body, has reminded the players they are not allowed to make “displays of a personal, religious or political nature” while playing.

A warning letter was sent to the Brazilian football federation ‘to remind them of the relevant regulations, so that such incidents do not recur in the future’.

Brazilian players, and Kaka in particular, are well-known for their strong religious beliefs and the squad and backroom staff formed a large circle and sank to their knees in prayer after the victory over the US at the end of last month.

A warning letter? Like that’ll do any good.

This will all continue until some player wears a shirt with an atheistic slogan (“I am a Soccer-ular Humanist”?)… You know this would all come to an end immediately if that happened.

(via The Freethinker)

  • ungullible

    I don’t get why Hemant considers this wrong, and I’m quite surprised that there is even a FIFA rule against it. Personal displays I’m OK with. If the coaches or leagues tried to coerce the entire team to pray or display religious slogans together, then I’d have a major problem.

    I get angry at the fundies who claim that our recent billboards are “offensive” when it is really nothing more than us expressing our opinion which differs from theirs. If a soccer or football player wears a statement for Jesus and we complain that this is “wrong”, how is that not being a hypocrit?

  • Matto the Hun

    @ ungullible

    This nothing more than the idea of separation of church and state extended to a particular sports league. Anything that somebody says politically or religiously will likely be offensive to someone and that detracts from the sport. Further, if there is no rule and one guy starts, then everyone is going to have something on their shirt or trying out do the last guy, fans will get involved, before you know it folks will forget there is even a game.

    Second, this is nothing like the atheist billboard campaign. Nor is it about being offended by the shirt. There is a rule, and this particular guy feels like he can break the rule if he wants because he has the Jesus. It also points to the double-standard when it comes to religion. Religion gets a pass (in this case a warning) but if there was an atheistic expression what usually happens is a sudden crackdown.

  • ungullible

    @ Matto: Separation of church and state extended to sports?!? Why? The state has the power to coerce and otherwise prevent the free expression of religion, which is why it is wrong. A sports league has no such power over the population, so that analogy doesn’t really float for me.

    I can somewhat see the potential for it to get out of hand, but that logic can apply to a lot of things that we don’t go banning. I hate slippery slope arguments because they so frequently argue that the only solution to prevent extreme case X is to ban it’s more moderate cousin Y, when in actuality the extreme case is not likely and there may be other ways to prevent it.

    I can agree with you that FIFA should be consistent about enforcing it’s own rules. But I can’t say I agree with the existence of the rule to begin with.

  • Luther

    Perhaps there is a case that this is not a violation of church and state, however, the leagues should be able to set such rules. Without such rules players could become walking billboards offering space to the highest bidder.

    The other action the soccer league could take is to remind referees of the rule and have them exact penalties for the infractions. That would stop it very quickly.

  • http://www.zeekeekee.wordpress.com Nessie

    Thanking God after winning a sports game. Because God is on YOUR side, innit? I find this particularly silly in more than one way. Obviously they are entitled to their personal religious belief, but what’s the point of playing if God dictates the outcome anyway? And isn’t it callous to assume that God wants a particular team or player to be more successful than any other player? That’s like being the only survivor in a train wreck and thanking God for the miracle of saving your life – except apparently no-one else mattered as much as you did. Cause they’re all dead.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “I belong to Jesus”

    - What makes you think that has anything to do with religion? Obviously he is declaring his love for his Mexican boyfriend. I would think a LGBQT advocate like Hemant would approve.

  • Erik

    The soccer league is a business, and businesses can limit the personal expression of employees if it can affect their ability to do business. Although the soccer players are employees of the specific team/club, that club is then a member of the league and therefore the same applies. If players started making religious or other declarations that turned off fans, then the players are directly impacting the success of the business. Or perhaps such personal expressions could potentially lead to fines by some national broadcasting regulators, or limit the ability to show the games in some markets due to government regulations. Who knows. The players can do whatever they want outside the stadium, but inside they have to abide by league rules just as I have to abide by my employer’s handbook.

  • http://www.rekounas.org/blog rekounas

    During a soccer match, you are suppose to remove all jewelry as well. Pele use to be allowed to wear his cross because of his religious belief’s… and the fact that he was Pele.

    In Canada, the CSA refuses to take a stance on the wearing of a hijab by female players.

    If it was me, I would were a shirt that says “My God wanted me to score and you to lose.” Cause really, that is what they are saying.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I eagerly await a “My God wanted me to score and you to lose” shirt. Enough of this dilly dallying, Christian sports men and women need to just come out and say what they mean.

    Also would it be against the FIFA rules if Westboro Baptist Church sponsored a footy team and had all the players wear “God Hates Your Team” shirts? It would encourage me to watch even less footy than I do now.

  • http://www.sixtyftsixin.com Nate

    Perhaps there is a case that this is not a violation of church and state, however, the leagues should be able to set such rules. Without such rules players could become walking billboards offering space to the highest bidder.

    1. There IS a case. FIFA is not state sponsored – it’s private. Therefore, there’s no state to keep separate.

    2. So with team sponsorships, players aren’t ALREADY walking billboards selling space to the highest bidder? Manchester United’s unis are emblazened with a giant AIG logo right on the front. How is that not a “walking billboard” already?

    A warning letter? Like that’ll do any good.

    This will all continue until some player wears a shirt with an atheistic slogan (”I am a Soccer-ular Humanist”?)… You know this would all come to an end immediately if that happened.

    I don’t feel like that’s entirely fair. The league took immediate action, and you have to think that if this continues they’ll take further action.

    Warning letters are more effective than you think in sports.

  • ATL-Apostate

    This is little more than a silly curiosity, imho. So some jock belongs to jeebus. So what? I’d like to see some of the other, more colorful T’s listed above start appearing – that would be most excellent.

    Also, let’s not be hypocritical. Think how proud we would all be if a Pastafarian athlete boasted a shirt with His Noodliness depicted at centerfield!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I don’t get why Hemant considers this wrong, and I’m quite surprised that there is even a FIFA rule against it. Personal displays I’m OK with. If the coaches or leagues tried to coerce the entire team to pray or display religious slogans together, then I’d have a major problem.

    As others have noted, FIFA is a private organization, so this isn’t a church/state issue.

    The problem is that this isn’t simply personal expression. A person wearing a shirt saying ALLAH IS GOD or NO GOD EXISTS or YOUR MOTHER WAS GREAT LAST NIGHT goes well beyond personal expression. It could cause problems with other players and *plenty* of unruly fans. (Soccer fans tend to be crazy as is… do they really need another reason to get riled up?)

    The way to prevent problems like this before it gets out of hand is to stop it altogether. Just limit the players to sanctioned uniforms. What they do in their personal lives is up to them. But on the field, let’s stay focused on the game.

  • Eskomo

    Why is he wearing a t-shirt with English words when his team is from a Portuguese speaking country and the stadium has non-English words visible in the background? Was he encouraged by someone in the US to do this?

  • Anticontrame

    Too much time on my hands…

  • Anticontrame

    I guess you can’t embed images in comments. Take two.

  • Kaylya

    @Eskomo

    It’s at an international tournament held in South Africa this year. If you want a large segment of an international audience to understand something, English is definitely the way to go.

    The letters visible in the background of that shot are “one” and “uefa”. UEFA is an acronym for a soccer association and the “one” may or may not be part of an English word although I suspect it’s part of the company name “Vodafone” (which operates in many countries both English speaking and not).

  • billybee

    Caption: HELP….I’m being sucked down into the earth!

  • Chris

    Kaka has been doing this for years, without much comment from anybody.

    Why is he wearing a t-shirt with English words when his team is from a Portuguese speaking country and the stadium has non-English words visible in the background? Was he encouraged by someone in the US to do this?

    Kaka belongs to a small evangelical Protestant church (that some have called cult-like) in Brazil and has been proclaiming his love for Jesus on shirts since the beginning of his career. The fact that the shirt is in English, as it always is now – even when Kaka plays in the Italian domestic league – is because it is specifically calculated to be understood by the largest number of people watching. Kaka is a very high profile player with world-wide recognition, and his club team (up until a few weeks ago) AC Milan is one of the highest profile teams. Their matches are watched all over the world with many more actual viewers outside of Italy (particularly East Asia) than inside Italy. Viewership for the Brazilian national team, particularly in international tournaments, is similar. English is the language most likely to be understood by the widest swathe of viewers from around the world.

    Interestingly, in the new season he will be moving from the Italian League to the Spanish League where a Muslim player, last season, lifted his shirt to reveal the word “Palestine.” That player was fined under the rules against religious/political statements. A lot of people made the direct comparison to Kaka’s “I Belong to Jesus” shirt, which he seemed to get away with. Since Kaka was playing in the Italian league at the time, a direct comparison of treatment was not possible. But we’ll see now what happens the first time Kaka scores for Real Madrid. (He usually displays the shirt after scoring.)

  • Chris

    [BTW: The picture above is from an AC Milan game and not the Confederations Cup Tournament, though the Jesus-shirt is the same.]

  • Epistaxis

    Soccer riots are violent enough already. Do we really need to add religious differences to the mix? Unlike sports within a single country, international soccer is likely to have teams (and their home countries) that divide neatly along denominational lines.

    Stay classy, Kaka!

  • Claudia

    Meh, color me unimpressed and underwhelmed. This t-shirt is hardly a new phenomenon in soccer. The very best player recently bought by the Real Madrid (my team) is also a strong Christian (his name is Cristiano!). Quite frankly, I’m glad he is. He avoids the nightlife, with the accompanying prostitution and drugs that go with it and that have ruined the careers of many good players.

    Soccer riots are violent enough already. Do we really need to add religious differences to the mix? Unlike sports within a single country, international soccer is likely to have teams (and their home countries) that divide neatly along denominational lines.

    Virtually all of the countries good enough to go to big cup games are majority Christian. In any case this isn’t an issue; the kinds of neanderthals that riot at games are not religiously motivated. They are thugs with frightening blood-alcohol contents all too ready for a fight.

    The message isn’t even that bad. Sure it’s silly, but it’s not particularly aggressive. He isn’t saying that Jesus helped him win (and therefore the other team lose) just that he personally gives himself over to his imaginary friend. Silly, but given all the other crap that inundates the world of elite soccer, small fries.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Perhaps his lucrative contract should be between the team and Jesus and leave Kaka out of it.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    …is also a strong Christian (his name is Cristiano!). Quite frankly, I’m glad he is. He avoids the nightlife, with the accompanying prostitution and drugs that go with it and that have ruined the careers of many good players.

    Because only Christians avoid immoral and damaging behaviour. They have a copyright on it.

  • Thilina

    Sports and superstition will always go hand in hand. its not hard to see how religion gets involved.

    Without such rules players could become walking billboards offering space to the highest bidder.

    This already happened along time ago, that’s why most pro sports players make 100′s of million of $.

  • Claudia

    Because only Christians avoid immoral and damaging behaviour. They have a copyright on it.

    Say what you want about it. I know that religion is no stranger to hypocrisy and bad behavior. Plenty of players say their religious and do all sorts of nasty things. This guy seems actually sincere, and he backs his stated beliefs with action. He cost the team an absurd amount of money. If Jesus is what he needs to keep away from the strippers and cocaine, that’s fine by me.

  • Aj

    Many organisations ask that representatives refrain from making polical or religious statements. Many players make the sign of the cross and point to the sky, although most of the time they’re not the focus of attention.

    Virtually all of the countries good enough to go to big cup games are majority Christian.

    It depends how you define Christians. Membership is sometimes compulsory for the majority of people in some Scandinavian countries, and majorities claim to be Christian according to censor data. However, other polls claim that nonbelief in a god is the majority view in the following countries: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Japan, Czech Republic, France and South Korea. All have been involved in the World Cup, including one winner and one finalist. Some more recent polls suggest the same for Germany, England, and Switzerland, that’s two more winners.

  • Aj

    He avoids the nightlife, with the accompanying prostitution and drugs that go with it and that have ruined the careers of many good players.

    Didn’t two time world cup winner and football great Garrincha love prostitutes and alcholol? He only lost one game with Brazil.

  • kalkin

    AJ, he wouldn’t be the first – Ronaldo, Maradona, George Best and many other greats have been aficionados of drugs, alcohol and fine ladies (and in Ronaldo’s case the occasional transvestite prostitute). Socrátes, the World Cup-winning Brazil captain (who also has a PhD in Philosophy and an M.D. and is a practicing physician – both of which he got while playing actively) used to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day while drinking heavily. You don’t need to be a goody two-shoes to be a classy player.

    As for the Palestine shirt, that was punished by the Spanish FA and the League, not by FIFA who don’t have jurisdiction, unlike over competitions such as the Confederations Cup. It was also judged to be a political, not a religious statement, which is more harshly punished, as it came immediately after something in Israel that I can’t remember – maybe the Lebanon war or something.

  • Aj

    I don’t know how I could screw up the spelling of alcohol so badly, must have been alcohol.

    kalkin,

    Thanks for the info. You can do all that stuff and be a classy player, well educated, and productive person then. I don’t think Socrátes won a world cup, although he did captain Brazil in two competitions, and his brother won one.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/traffician traffician

    hmmm, religious leagues.

    it’s hard to predict if having, for example, an all-baptist team play an all-sunni team would have any negative consequences such as self-righteous hooliganism or holy vandalism. can anybody imagine an *un*friendly congratulatory handshake parade after the sunnis totally bury the baptists? the religious do pride themselves on their gracious acceptance of the will and whim of the creator.

    myself, i couldn’t in good conscience support an atheist team. it’s not a belief after all.

  • Rod

    “I love Jesus” does not mean “I love Jesus and I hate you.” Let me translate it in your language: I love Jesus = I love you. Two rules for Christians. 2nd one is Love your neighbor(s) as you love yourself. Now, who can get offended by that? I’m sure Kaka is not trying to impose his religion nor he thanks for making the other team lose for this will be just in the mind of a selfish person. He is simply saying Thanks for the opportunity to play this wonderful sport. SOCCER BEST SPORT EVER.

  • p-lo

    If you read his shirt properly it says that HE belongs to Jesus…not his team, or the goal he may have scored…He dedicates his life to Jesus…that’s all. How do you get “I won because God is on my side” from that?

  • soccerx52

    @ Nessie.. why do you think he is saying that because hes wearing this shirt that God wants his team to win or that God dictates the outcome of the game. Have you considered that he is thanking God for his ability to play soccer not just for winning the game???

  • jesusfreak

    From what I can tell you all have way too much time on your hands to be criticizing Christians, or anyone of another religion. I myself am a Christian and find Kaka’s display of his faith as inspirational, my question for you all is this, you do not believe in God or any form of a greater being correct? Well what if your wrong? You all know how that goes, those that do not believe are not written in the book of life and God will say flee from me, for I never knew you and those will be sent to hell. But…if I’m wrong then what could happen? nothing, but just what if…what if friends…just think about that.


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