You may have recently seen the news that one of football’s biggest stars, Roberto Firmino, got baptised last week.
Liverpool’s mercurial no. 9 was baptised at his home by teammate and goalkeeper Alisson Becker and Brazilian Christian musician Isaias Saad, in the presence of Firmino’s family and friends.
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ROBERTO FIRMINO (Liverpool FC)
“I gave you my failures and I will give you my victories as well,” wrote the Brazilian in Portuguese on Instagram. “My biggest title is your love, Jesus!”
In the video, the league leader’s centre-forward declared faith in the Holy Spirit before being immersed in the waters of baptism, and emerged to hugs from his wife Larissa Pereira, as well as Becker and Saad.
“Bobby” – Firmino’s nickname which he is affectionately known by in Liverpool – becomes the latest addition to a growing Christian contingent in Liverpool, one which German manager Jürgen Klopp is also a fervent part of!
In the wake of Firmino’s baptism, we take a look at 5 other Premier League footballers who aren’t afraid to fly the flag for Jesus Christ.
JOEL WARD (Crystal Palace FC)
When it comes to Crystal Palace defenders, the name that would come to most mind would probably be Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the Eagles’ former right-back who moved to Manchester United in June 2019, becoming the 6th most expensive defender of all time.
But before Wan-Bissaka, there was a reserved full-back named Joel Ward. As Crystal Palace’s longest-serving player, not many know of Ward’s Christian values and practices beyond the consistent displays he delivers weekly on the pitch.
As a youth player in Pompey, Ward was known for choosing to only play one game a month so he could attend church on Sundays. This would mean missing 3 other games every month – a decision that would make little sense to secular observers as football is a sport where games come thick and fast over Saturdays and Sundays. Building game-time is the highest priority for youth players, who also know that club scouts will be in attendance at such games.
But Ward has quietly modelled faith in the football world over the years in ways such as this, while remaining relational: “I’ve always been pretty open about my faith, but I don’t force it or show myself off to people. I join in with the lads… At the end of the day, you have to be relational, but you know your limits and you know your moral compass. But I join in. Not to do so would not be the gospel, at the end of the day. I feel that I am flying the flag in the sporting world and God has given me a platform.”
ALISSON BECKER (Liverpool FC)
Regarded by many to be the best goalkeeper in the game right now, Alisson Becker has always kept his lamp burning to shine a light in world football.
If you saw the celebrations after last year’s Champions League final match, you’d seen Becker take off his jersey upon victory to reveal his white training kit beneath with the symbols “CROSS = LOVE”.
Becker has set a good example in his focus on God at one of the highest points in his life. Seizing moments of personal success as platforms to give God glory is something we all can learn to do in increasing measure.
The recent recipient of the Yachine Trophy commonly credits his successes to God on Instagram with the occasional psalm or Bible verse. On the social media platform, Becker also wrote of Firmino’s baptism: “I’m still speechless to describe Jesus’ love! Very happy to have participated in a moment like this, the baptism of people I love so much! Thank you so much Jesus, I love you!”
OLIVIER GIROUD (Chelsea FC)
One of my favourite players, the World Cup winner and Chelsea forward has been through difficult times in his personal life and career, but has come out stronger for it – having found strength through his faith in Christ.
Last year, the former Arsenal man even guest edited a Christian magazine as well as sponsored a gala to aid persecuted Christians in North Africa.
DAVID LUIZ (Arsenal FC)
From driving to Benfica training sessions in a van pasted with Christian stickers, to praying for Chelsea teammate Fernando Torres in a Champions League match, Arsenal’s afro-wearing Brazilian defender has always been vocal about his faith.
At his baptism in May 2015, Luiz gave thanks to God: “How wonderful to live with you Lord, thank You for loving me so much and taking care of me! My life is yours, and I am your servant! You’re always in the centre of all my decisions! I love my God! Amen.”
WILLIAN BORGES DA SILVA (Chelsea FC)
Completing the hat-trick of baptisms in this list, Chelsea’s wizard on the wing was baptised in the River Jordan over last year’s summer break in Israel.
Willian’s baptism capped off what was a tumultuous period for the winger, who had to cope with the death of his mother to a brain tumour back in 2018.
From Ward to Willian, the testimonies of these elite athletes challenge us: Will we likewise begin to point away from ourselves in the triumphs of our lives and point to God instead? Will we choose to redeem our public platforms, turn away from self-glorification and use it to communicate the glory of God to our world?
I suspect that many of these God-fearing footballers recognise that life on earth isn’t just about Champions League trophies or individual rewards.
They’re playing for heavenly rewards instead. And so should we.
- Do you find it easy or difficult to give credit to God for your achievements?
- How have you seen the hand of God upon your life, especially during your high points?
- What are you living for?
- How can you use your influence – online and offline – to share about your faith?