Christ in the Desert Word on the Week 10th December 2022.
It was with some misgivings that we saw FIFA set in motion a train of events ending with the world football cup being hosted by the Muslim world. Qatar borders Arabia where the city of mecca is the epicentre of Islam.
The oil revenues enabled the tiny nation state to build seven world class stadiums and to have them finished on time! News of the toll in human lives lost in their construction blighted the early days of the tournament. That changed when someone mentioned it was like colonial times and the conversation ceased!
The talking moved to the football field where the opening game between Ecuador and Qatar resulted in the host team being beaten. Both Ecuador’s Goals were scored by Enner Valencia. After each goal the team gathered round and dropped to their knees acknowledging their allegiance to the Christian God.
A widely-circulated video showed Ecuador team players praying in a hotel room. “We always do it, in a group, before and after the games,” one of the team explained, adding in his own brand of English: “We are all very believers. At the end, regardless of the result, we thank (God) for leaving the field well and not having hurt anyone.”
Western commentators are familiar with players acknowledging their prowess comes from God but in Muslin lands this silent witness to Christ is not normally permitted. Those who are led to witness usually end up in jail. I am indebted to Jeff Fountain of the Schuman Centre for Europe Studies for the following piece of research.
Many of the European players who are outspoken about their faith have migrant roots. In the Dutch team alone, Denzel Dumfries (Aruba/Inter Milan), Jurriën Timber (Curacao/Ajax), Coady Gapko (Togo/PSV), Georginio Wijnaldum (Surinam/Liverpool), and Memphis Depay (Ghana/Barcelona) pray together and share their Christian faith on the field.
Gapko scored three goals during the group phase, and after scoring against Senegal posted Psalm 121:1 on Instagram: ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’
Memphis often points to the sky in his goal in winning celebrations and writes on social media, ‘all the glory to God.’ In thankfulness to God for his talent, he has set up a foundation in Ghana to help blind and deaf children.
The centre of Christianity has moved to the Southern hemisphere. Their players are carrying the cause of Christ into the world of Islam. God never lacks a witness (St Luke Chapter 19 verse 40). Praise Him.