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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Soccer group tells Brazil’s superstars ’Keep God out of football’

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

UNITED KINGDOM (ANS) -- The soccer world's governing body -- FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association) -- has sparked controversy after disciplining the Brazilian team for overt displays of Christianity during a match.

AC Milan soccer star Kaka and his Brazilian teammates have been told to stop making overt displays of their Christianity during matches (Photo credit: EMPICS Sport/PA Photos).

Stars including £56 million pounds sterling ($91.5 million USD) Real Madrid forward Kaka and captain Lucio revealed T-shirts with devout slogans such as 'I Belong to Jesus' and 'I Love God' during the Confederations Cup final last month.

According to Daniel King, writing for Britain's 'Daily Mail' newspaper ( ), FIFA has now risked accusations of being 'anti-religious' by reminding Brazil of its guidelines banning players from making displays of a personal, religious or political nature on the football pitch.

King reports that 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.'

The newspaper reports that 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.

In the subsequent team photographs, many players were wearing the Christian T-shirts, with captain Lucio prominent as he lifted the trophy, the newspaper said.

In his article, King says: "But Brazil's display of faith had an extra element of controversy because most of the players are Pentecostalists, whose leaders have been accused of violating religious freedom by attacking those of other faiths.

"In the light of Brazil's high-profile display of faith, seen around the world by millions of television viewers, the head of football in Denmark wants all religious statements banned from football."

Jim Stjerne Hansen, secretary general of the Danish football association, said: "Just as we reject political manifestations, we should also say no to religious ones. There are too many risks involved in clubs, for example, with people of different religious faiths."

King explains that FIFA rules specifically ban the use of T-shirts or other undergarments, but there is nothing that outlaws prayer or other displays of religious belief. Law 4, which deals with players' equipment, reads: "Players must not reveal undergarments showing slogans or advertising. The basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements."

Brazil has escaped sanction, just as they did following a similar display of T-shirts after their 2005 Confederations Cup win, but football has made its intention clear to keep religion, as well as politics, out of sport, King reported.

According to its website, FIFA is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904 and based in Zurich. It has 208 member associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football.

FIFA employs some 310 people from over 35 nations and is composed of a Congress (legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body) and committees (assisting the Executive Committee).

** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel, and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649,at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.'

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