And on him they laid the cross" Luke, 23:26
Keeper of the Keys to Heaven
In his youth, Pope John Paul II
regularly played in goal for both his school and University sides and was
described by one of his biographers, Lord Longford, as having something of a "powerful
build". Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 put an end to the pontiff's
footballing career as he dedicated his life to the Catholic Church. However,
whether or not he was infallible between the sticks as a boy has been lost in
Between 1895-96, Oxford University student and
Corinthians club member George Raikes won four full caps for England and may
have even have captained the national side. He was highly praised for his
shot-stopping efforts in match reports of all of his internationals but stopped
playing altogether after he graduated from university and took holy orders, although did continue to enjoy a career in County Cricket.
Missed his Calling
In 1879 the Rev W Blackmore was selected to
play for England in a match against Wales but was unable to play on the day.
Rupert Anderson, a 19-year-old centre forward at club level, took his place.
Neither player was selected to play for England again.
Dai Davies' football career always had something of a religious theme
flowing through it - he was nicknamed Dracula in his heyday because fans thought
he was scared of crosses. In later life, he underwent something of a spiritual
conversion, which led to him becoming a medium and acquiring a penchant for
reincarnation. His transformation occurred after a visit to the pyramids. He
entered the King's chamber of the main pyramid and was emotionally moved after
reading a spell. So much so that he vowed to change his life for the better. Of
course, this didn't stop him saying some very strange things to the press, the
weirdest being: "There are fairies somewhere with tremendous energy. I can
sense angels." After running a Welsh bookshop in Mold, the former Welsh
international keeper now specialises in remedial massages and runs a flotation
tank at the Llangollen Holistic Health Centre in conjunction with his
Feldenkrais ('awareness through movement') classes.
The Holy Goalie
Ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1931, Leonard Small made
the most of his religious calling, rising through the ecclesiastical ranks to
become Moderator of the General Assembly and Chaplain to the Queen. Just as
well, really, because he gave up a promising football career to concentrate on
his work with the church. Captain of the Edinburgh University Football Team,
Small was keen to prolong his playing days once he had graduated and joined
Scottish Second Division side St. Bernard's as an amateur. He received
international recognition in 1929 when he was capped by Scotland at amateur
level in 1929 and was a popular figure in the League, both with his team mates
and the opposition. But his footballing antics were curtailed by his superiors
in the Church, who felt it wasn't 'the done thing' for a minister to be seen
throwing himself in the mud to prevent a certain goal. Small respected their
opinion and retired. But his passion for the game remained, he occasionally
turned out for his parish side and refereed the odd Scottish League game. Even
in later life, he never stopped attending matches. Such was his love for
football that he titled his autobiography 'The Holy Goalie'.
Never on a Sunday
In February 1974, Swindon Town's 19-year-old goalkeeper, Jimmy Allen, hit
headlines for refusing to play in a League game against Bolton Wanderers. The
game was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon kick-off, due to industrial action,
and Allen refused to play on religious grounds. Swindon manager Les Allen (no
relation!) respected his keeper's decision but as a result Allen lost his place
in the side and it was sometime before he re-established himself as the club's
number one keeper.
Your club is on the threshold of a place in the Champions League for the
first time in its history and your country is about to take part in the Copa
America. You're the first choice goalie for both, so what do you do? Well, if
you're Carlos Roa, you retire. The Argentinian international, whose save from
David Batty put England out of the 1998 World Cup, decided to quit football in
order to devote himself to religion after announcing his belief that the World
will end in the year 2000. A member of the Seventh Day Adventists, Roa claimed
that football was getting in the way of his preaching.
'He truly is the Son of God'
"Sometimes we have wards full of them" - Dr. Heather
McKee, Psychiatrist, London Charing Cross Hospital, 1991.
football career was not what you would call spectacular. He retired at the age
of 21 suffering from arthritis after brief spells with Coventry City and
Hereford. But in 1991 he became a household name after claiming to be the Son of
God. The declaration occurred at a specially convened press conference at
Gatwick Airport where the former Grandstand presenter had just landed with his
spiritual advisor, a Canadian by the name of Mari Shawsun. He let it be known
that Shawsun would henceforth be referred to as the Daughter of God while his
wife was to be called the Spirit of the Angel of God. He also predicted the
Second Coming, numerous environmental disasters and said that the Channel Tunnel
would never be built. Best of all, he said that Cuba, the Isle of Arran and the
White Cliffs of Dover would all disappear. Of course, Icke may have been taken a
little more seriously if he hadn't developed a strange passion for turquoise
shell suits. Public humiliation followed, particularly on the TV programme
'Wogan' and the Green Party disowned him. Having become something of a recluse in the 1990s, Icke re-emerged in the 21st Century and became a fixture on the University lecture circuit as a conspiracy theorist.
With a goals against average of just 0.26, UCLA Bruins' goalkeeper Eric Reed is one of the most promising footballers ever to emerge from the American College game but the talented youngster has set his sights beyond a professional career in the MLS. The Religious Studies student has ambitions to become a preacher after hanging up his gloves.
Moving in Mysterious Ways
Whilst growing up in a remote but deeply religious part of Brazil, goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel often prayed to God for help and guidance as a child, but even he must have been baffled when he received a set of gloves and a keeper's kit for Christmas when he was eight. In an interview with the French newspaper L'Equipe, the future World Cup Winner revealed that he had asked God to help him become a great basketball or volleyball player.
Not many goalkeepers have founded their own religious movement, but Brazil's João Leite can justifiably make such a claim. The former Clube Atlético Mineiro and Brazilian international keeper founded the "Christ's Athletes" movement in his native country during his playing days and his involvement with Evangelist Church earned him the nickname God's Goalkeeper. Now a politician in Minas Gerais, Leite won six caps for Brazil and was part of the Atlético team that won ten Mineiro State Championships.
Seeking Pastors New
Having retired from the professional game, former Nigerian international Alloy Agu became a Minister in the Christ Devine Church after finding God. Something of character in his youth, Agu, who counted RC Liege of Belgium and Dutch side MVV amongst his many clubs, repented his ways after being "arrested by God" and hung up his gloves to become a pastor.
Norwegian keeper Espen Johnsen undertook a course on Christian Studies while at college and remains an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway. The Rosenberg goalkeeper has also received attention in his native country for talking publicly about his religious faith and holding open conversations concerning religious and ethical topics.
Blessed are the Meek
American Adin Brown, who currently plays for Aalesund in the Norwegian Premier League, has had a career plagued by injury and often has trouble regaining full fitness due to his beliefs. As a Christian Scientist, he refuses many forms of treatment that would normally clear up innocuous knocks.
Friends in High Places
When Newcastle United and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given got married, he and his wife received a papal blessing from the late Pope John Paul II.
Keeping Up Appearances
Israeli goalkeeper Dudu Aouate caused quite a stir in his homeland when he confessed to a Spanish football publication that he would play for his club, Deportivo de La Coruña, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur if called upon rather than lose his place. His comments caused controversy throughout Israel, with members of the Shas party calling for his removal from the national team.
The Enlightened One
Frenchman Sébastien Frey turned to Buddhism to help him overcome a career-threatening in 2006 whilst with Fiorentina and cited Italian superstar Roberto Baggio as the influence behind his decision to convert.
The Hand of God
Devout Christian Adriano Basso has had quite an impact on the fans of Bristol City. The Brazilian goalkeeper's motto of "Always Believe" plus his pre-match ritual of pointing to the sky have been adopted by City fans in recent years, so much so that the Supporters' Trust at Ashton Gate produced a line of foam hands with "Always Believe" printed on them and handed them out to supporters before key games during the 2006/07 season. In March 2008 Basso reconfirmed his beliefs by crediting his penalty save from Darius Henderson to the Holy Spirit.
You've Gotta Have Faith
Everton goalkeeper Carlo Nash is another custodian who is also a devout Christian and apparently never swears at referees or cheat on the pitch due to his beliefs. In an interview with the Church Times, the former Stockport County and Middlesbrough keeper stated that he found being a Christian helps me to deal with disappointing moments in football a lot better".
The Cricketing Clergyman who won the FA Cup
While studying at Oxford University Charles Nepean proved to be something of an all-round sportsman, not only representing the University - and Middlesex - at cricket but also football. He won an FA Cup winners medal in 1874 - having missed the final against Wanderers in 1872 - and went on to represent Scotland during Lord Kinnaird's pseudo-internationals on the early 1870s (despite not having any Scottish blood in him. He retired from both games following his graduation and decision to enter the Chuch of England. In 1876 he was appointed the vicar of Lenham in Kent.
Cross and Blackwell
Ernest Blackwell, who played for Sheffield United after World War One, was a devout methodist and practising lay-preacher. He would occasionally miss games if they clashed with key dates in the religious calendar.