EUROPE (ANS) — As millions around Europe and the world follow the European football competition, Evangelical Focus collected some interesting stories that have links to the Christian faith.
The online news magazine says that for the first time in its history, Austria has qualified for the last 16 of the Euro, after beating Ukraine 0-1. Two of its players, Louis Schaub and David Alaba, often speak about their faith publicly.
The midfielder and attacker Louis Schaub, who has scored six goals in 21 international matches, has already played in three German-speaking countries; after Rapid Wien and 1. FC Köln as well as HSV, Schaub now plays for FC Luzern.
He was asked about his motto in life, and quoted Psalm 18, verse 30: “With my God I can jump over walls.”
But the most famous Austrian player at the Euro is its captain David Alaba. He was the MVP in the victory against Macedonia.
The new Real Madrid star with Nigerian, Filipino and Austrian roots regularly expresses his Christian faith. Last year during the celebration of the Champions League title with the FC Bayern München, he took his team’s tricot off and put on a white shirt with the message “My strength lies in Jesus” written in big black letters.
Among other things, the 83-time international (14 goals) also posted a video on social media in which he read from Psalm 23 and then invited people to look for God and walk with him.
Olivier Giroud is one of the Euro 2020 players that has been most vocal about his Christian faith. His team, France, is one of the favourites to win the championship, alongside Germany, Italy and Belgium.
Days before the start of the competition, Giroud said: “Faith helps me relativise things. Knowing how to forgive is something that calms me down, it gives me a lot of serenity.”
With 46 goals so far, Olivier is the second best goal scorer in the history of the French national team, only behind the retired player Thierry Henry.
Giroud is a member of an evangelical church in London, has been involved with the evangelistic Alpha Courses, and has been advocating for persecuted Christians.
“Every time I read the words of the Bible, it makes me feel grateful about everything that has happened to me,” he said a couple years ago.
Football in England
Modern football was invented in England, and the nation is present in the Euro 2020 – alongside Wales and Scotland, also from the United Kingdom.
Did you know one third of all teams that have ever been in the Premier League (the highest competition in England) were started by churches? This includes major clubs such as Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
This is what Gavin Calver of the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom shares in an article in which he also underlines the ugly side of elite football.
“Research from academics at Lancaster University found that the number of reported cases of domestic abuse rose by 38 per cent when England lost. Racist abuse towards footballers too is utterly unacceptable. Racism has no place in football or indeed in wider society. Betting is also a serious problem that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with robustly.”
Calver concludes: “I hope and pray that these issues won’t emerge this summer and that people will be able enjoy this beautiful game without suffering from some of the uglier aspects of the industry.”
Did you know the hymn of the Swiss national team is a Psalm praising God? / Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов, Wikimedia Commons, CC SA.
The Swiss anthem
In its final group A game, Switzerland beat Turkey (3-1) and dreams with the round of 16. Did you know the country has probably the most Christian national anthem of the Euro 2020?
Before every game, players sing (or at least listen respectfully) to the “Swiss Psalm.” It was composed in 1841 by Alberich Zwyssig and includes phrases such as:
“Towards us in the wild storm coming,
You [Lord] yourself give us resistance and stronghold,
You, almighty ruling, rescuing!
During horror and nights of thunderstorms
Let us childlike trust Him!
Yes, we feel and understand;
Yes, we feel and understand;
That God dwelleth in this land.
That God dwelleth in this land.”
For years, in the increasingly secularised Switzerland, many have asked to “update” the hymn and remove the references to God (something that some are asking about the constitution as well).
Through an official competition, alternative lyrics omitting the word “God” were proposed in 2015, but the national parliament does not seem to be in a hurry to open the controversial debate about changing this central identity element.
The author of this story, Michael Ireland, is a self-supported media missionary with ANS. Click here to support him as a missionary journalist.