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where sports and faith connect

Radamel Falcão 108




José Luís Vidigal José Luis Vidigal Portugal


Cyrille Domoraud

Clint Dempsey


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Radamel Falcão:

Through highs and lows, Colombian soccer star Radamel Falcao has remained constant in his faith



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Fame and fortune didn’t distract Brazil’s Lúcio from his main purpose – to glorify God


Clint Dempsey:

Despite past tragedies, Clint Dempsey grew closer to God instead of further away

José Luis Vidigal:

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Portugal’s José Luis Vidigal experienced victory through defeat in one of the biggest games of his career


Cyrille Domoraud:

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The Ivory Coast’s Cyrille Domoraud has focused on the good instead of the bad, and in turn he has been able to ‘thank God for the chance to be part of His kingdom’

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Lúcio Fame and fortune didn’t distract Brazil’s Lúcio from his main purpose – to glorify God


s former Brazilian captain Lucimar Ferreira da Silva, or Lúcio as he’s known throughout the soccer world, was reminiscing about Brazil’s World Cup victory in Japan, his thoughts went back to the feelings he had when he helped his soccercrazed country win the world’s most coveted title in sports. It also caused him to think about the most important part of his life. “In Brazil, everyone dreams of this,” he says of winning the World Cup. “I have been able to participate in this great dream. We were a great group and it was a very important moment in my life and in my family’s life. Once again, we had the opportunity to thank God with the whole world watching. Without a doubt, this was more important than the title.”

The sports movement serves athletes like Lucio to ‘Live, Represent and Share their stories of faith in the World of Sport.’ They showed the world their passion for God by taking off their jerseys and revealing shirts underneath that had short statements about Jesus and their love for Him. In a brief conversation, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Lúcio constantly thank God for every aspect of his life – from playing soccer for a living, to having a wife, children and appreciating other simplicities of life. He has played more than 100 international matches for Brazil, including a huge match in June 2009 when he scored the gamewinning goal to help Brazil to a 3-2 comeback victory against the United States in the Confederations Cup championship game in South Africa. “I think that the confidence we had in ourselves during the Confederations Cup was fundamental,” he shared. “But above all, we recognized the power of God working in our lives.” The focus was and is always on God, His mercy, how God has blessed him in so many ways, and how much he needs God despite seemingly having everything. “I believe that the fact I play for a great club, played on the national team, the fact I have a wife and family who support me, just shows me that I need God all the more,” says Lúcio. “Without a doubt, today I can say that God has done things in my life that I never would have imagined. As a professional, playing for great clubs, (winning) titles, having a wife and children who are healthy and walking in the same path towards Jesus, and understanding what God has done for us, the love He demonstrates for us every day, and His mercy in our weakness and in the fact we are sinners. I believe God shows true love when we fail and He loves us and takes care of us just the same. I believe this is what brings us closer to Him each and every day.”



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José Luis Vidigal Portugal’s José Luis Vidigal experienced victory through defeat in one of the biggest games of his career

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he second of 12 children, including four who played soccer, José Luis Vidigal understands what it means to fight and push for attention. During an 18-year professional career, Vidigal spent the majority of his career in Italy and Portugal. In between he represented Portugal in 28 games, including seven on the U-21 team, six during the Olympics where Portugal finished fourth, and 15 on the national team. Four of the games were in the UEFA Euro Cup, including the semifinal loss to France. But the most memorable and most exciting game was a 3-2 comeback victory against England. Down 2-0, Portugal scored three goals and went on to win their Group going 3-0 in the process. In the knockout round, Portugal won its first games, 2-0, against Turkey before losing 2-1 to France in the semifinals. “I’ll never forget this game (against England) because we were in a pretty unfortunate situation,” Vidigal says. “But I remember how God told me that we would have a beautiful European championship. Although we lost 2-1 (to France in the semifinals), I still believed that something good could come out of it. Without a doubt, it was Jesus Christ who turned the loss of a soccer game into a great result - Jesus changed my life. From the beginning I thought I could do it all myself, in relationships with my family, and in my professional and social worlds. I believed in my own abilities, but it did not help. “When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, then everything became brighter. I learned to forgive and help. My life changed. Vidigal played for nine more seasons after the UEFA Euro Cup

Worldwide sportspeople are helping and encouraging each other in a holistic way, helping to understand that their self worth is based on who they are not what they do. but soccer was no longer number one in his life. “I believe in Jesus because I know that my life does not end here in this world,” Vidigal says. “I do have a special place next to Jesus, and He accepts me. I want more people to have faith and realize that they should accept Him, because otherwise they will have a difficult time at the end of this earthly life. “My motivation in everything comes from the Lord, because I live and work for Him. I want to be an example of God on Earth. If I did not do that, and if I was not motivated by God, it would be hard to tell people about Him. “My favorite Bible verses are: ‘We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’ (Romans 8:37) and ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

Sports people desiring to live in obedience to the Bible. “The first verse is closely connected with my profession. I believe that I can spend my days in victory. I do not mean winning in soccer or any other sport, but in life. From the Bible John 3:16 is the foundation of my faith. “ 5


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Cyrille Domoraud The Ivory Coast’s Cyrille Domoraud has focused on the good instead of the bad, and in turn he has been able to ‘thank God for the chance to be part of His kingdom’


or Cyrille Domoraud, the Germany World Cup represented both the greatest triumph and most difficult challenge of his career. In late 2005, Domoraud, a fullback from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), captained Les Éléphants (the Elephants) the national soccer team to its firstever World Cup berth, a historic event that prompted a temporary ceasefire in the nation’s six-year civil war. But Domoraud didn’t play in the first two games — close losses to Argentina and the Netherlands — before getting a red card in The Elephants final game, a win over Serbia and Montenegro. “It was a blow to feel like my efforts hadn’t been rewarded,” he says. “But that’s part of the job.”

spirits. But thanks in part to the faithful witness of his sister, Domoraud became a follower of Christ and left his superstitious upbringing. By then, his impressive playing career was growing. After starting with several French clubs, he spent a season with Italian Serie A giant Inter Milan before playing with teams in France, Spain, Turkey and, finally back in the Ivory Coast. His last professional season was with Africa Sports Abidjan.

For athletes like Cyrille sports academies provide skill and spiritual development opportunities.

Now he has devoted more time to his Cyrille Domoraud Training Centre in Abidjan, which has produced, among others, Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony of Swansea City (English Premier League). But Domoraud will always be remembered in the Ivory Coast as part of the famed Germany World Cup team, despite the temporary frustrations that followed. “I was just so happy to be at the Our opportunity to World Cup and thank God for allowing me to be a part of it, for it was He who proclaim the Gospel in the enabled me to go,” Domoraud says. “It world of sport. was a miracle — a great moment He gave me in my life and in my career. I would never have thought about Born in Ivory Coast, Domoraud grew becoming a professional soccer player up in a culture steeped in witchcraft. As but for His leading. So rather than ask a young player he used to wear a good why the negative things happened, I luck ring — one of many talismans he thank God for the chance to be part of owned — in the hopes of obtaining His kingdom and to play in the World spiritual protection and fending off evil Cup.”


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Through THROUGH highs HIGHS and AND lows, LOWS, Colombian COLOMBIAN football FOOTBALL star STAR Radamel RADAMEL Falc達o FALCAO has HAS remained REMAINED constant CONSTANT in IN his HIS faith FAITH 8


t’s been an intense year for Colombian soccer star Radamel Falcão. Falcão, considered one of the top strikers in the world, was acquired by Monaco in May of 2013 in a huge transfer deal from Atletico Madrid. Then, things got more exciting. Three months after his contract, Falcão and his wife, Argentinean singer Lorelei Taron, had their first child, Dominique Garcia Taron. New contract. New Child. A good year for the 28-year-old Falcão who has become a symbol of the Colombian national team.

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When athletes face injury sportspeople are helping and encouraging each other in a holistic way, helping to understand that their self worth is based on who they are not what they do.


On January 22, however, while playing for Monaco in the French Cup, Falcão’s knee buckled under a hard challenge, resulting in surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament three days later. In an instant, his national dreams for Colombia came crashing down. The World Cup only comes around every four years, and his injury couldn’t have come at a worse time on the national scale. However, the thing that has kept him steady in the good times is also the thing breathing life into him in this hard time. Despite the injury, Falcão—known as “El Tigre” or “The Tiger”— still has a beautiful family. Soccer enthusiasts are amazed by his skills and ability to score goals. Admirers and marketing companies love his distinct look— his friendly face and long, black recognizable hair. Teams appreciate his stellar off-the-field reputation; he’s a family man, devout believer, and a


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leader for a sports ministry. Professionally. Financially. Personally. He seems to have it all.

Many top athletes are providing coaching for life training to serve youth to grow in their sports skills, practical life skills and biblical understanding. Falcão first came onto the scene when he was 13 years old playing for Lanceros Boyaca in Colombia, and he has continued to amaze those who have watched his play on the pitch ever since. His name exploded when he played for Atletico Madrid from 2011-

2013, a period when he scored more than 100 goals. In 2012, The Guardian newspaper ranked Falcão as sixth in its list of the 100 best soccer players in the world, and well-known manager Fábio Capello considers Falcão on the same level as international superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But with that success comes both pressure and temptation—pressure to perform and temptation of believing the praise from people when you do perform. “I feel blessed to play upfront and score goals,” Falcão says. “It is the maximum expression of the game and a special moment for players and fans alike. But with the recognition and responsibility to score comes a lot of pressure. I lean on God through that pressure, knowing He is always there to help me. My faith in Him has helped me maintain my composure and stay firm in my convictions throughout my career—and throughout my life.”

That’s what makes Falcão especially unique—his worldview in light of his immense popularity, wealth, his ability to stay firm in his convictions despite seeming to have all the world has to offer. “Some say that having soccer, recognition, and money is all you need to be satisfied,” Falcão reflects. “But

a lot of people feel empty and have a void in their heart despite their fame and possessions. I believe that only God can satisfy our spiritual need. Jesus Christ gave His life to satisfy that need. With Him, we can be assured that He will never leave us. I know this personally because I have repeatedly experienced His faithfulness and love in

my own life.” Its one thing for someone who has not experienced anything this world values to say the world is pointless, but it’s another for someone who has reached the top of this world to say it’s empty at the top. It’s also one thing for someone without money to say wealth is empty; but it’s another for someone who has experienced wealth to denounce wealth-driven purpose. Falcão’s unique experience with this world, combined with his view of that experience, allows people to see the world for what it really is. As theologian Henri Nouwen once said in his book Life of the Beloved, “you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive.” It was St. Augustine who once said, “We were made for You, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Some have called it a “Godshaped hole” in our hearts that will forever exist no matter how impressive our achievements or how much money is in our savings accounts. Falcão’s faith is what is important to him when playing his best and it’s what keeps him depending on God in the low points. His faith remains a constant in situations where there may be so many questions.

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Finding Strength in the Despite past tragedies, Clint Dempsey grew closer to God instead of further away 12

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lint Dempsey discovered that he loved soccer in school. The exhilaration of scoring goals was exactly what he needed to deepen his love for a game that has taken him all over the world and allowed him to play at soccer’s highest level in Europe and in the United States. “My parents had started me in the sport to help me learn good people skills,” Dempsey says. “I didn’t know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God.” Dempsey was 21 when he turned pro, the same year that he made the U.S. national team and also earned Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the Year award. One year later he was lifting up the first of two straight Major League Soccer’s championship trophies for the New England

Revolution. Since then he has played in England for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur, helped the U.S. win the CONCACAF Gold Cup, represented the U.S. in World Cup games and been named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year multiple times. Though soccer has been a huge part of shaping Dempsey’s life, when he was 12 years old a tragedy changed his life forever.

Worldwide sportspeople are helping and encouraging each other in a holistic way, helping to understand that their self worth is based on who they are not what they do. “I grew up in a religious family and would go to church with my grandmother every Sunday. Through her, I learned that faith was important,” Dempsey says. “When I was 12 years old, my life took a turn that would change me forever. My sister (Jennifer) died (from a brain aneurysm) and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all. For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But He was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength.” Though he knew about God, he wasn’t actively pursuing God. However, a team Bible study at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., helped him learn about God more and understand what an active faith really meant. “In university, I joined a team Bible study. God’s Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him,” Dempsey says. “I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction. Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and

will watch over me.” He looks back on his university days and thanks God that he was a part of the Bible study, but he also looks back on that time and is thankful for something else – life. One day, two of his soccer teammates, asked him to go to a concert with them. Because he didn’t have much money, Dempsey told them he couldn’t go. His lack of finances saved his life. On the way to the concert, the car that the two friends were driving was in an accident and turned over. An 18-wheeler truck hit the car and killed one friend and the second friend was injured and never able to play soccer again. Despite past tragedies in Dempsey’s life, it hasn’t made him pray for safety more often. It has deepened his perspective of life – that we don’t know when we’ll be gone and that we don’t have much time to make an impact in people’s lives – and also deepened his desire to please God. “Today, I pray for strength to walk the road before me,” he says. “I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success He has given me. Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him.”

Sports people desiring to Live in obedience to the Bible. He does that by reading the Bible, which has given him insight and direction. “God provides strength, even when circumstances seem impossible,” he says. “From the Bible in Genesis, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many generations, but for years his wife, Sarah, was unable to bear children. Even as he approached one hundred years old, Abraham ‘did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God’ In the Bible (Romans 4:20). Abraham’s faith was rewarded when God honored His promise and Sarah, at age 90, gave birth to their son, Isaac.”

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