England ace Bukayo Saka has been commended for talking openly about his Christian faith and reading the Bible during the World Cup in Qatar.
The 21-year-old, who plays for Arsenal, was asked at a recent press conference whether he was reading his Bible during the tournament.
He said he had kept up his daily Bible-reading while in the majority Muslim country and said that it was putting his faith in God that was helping him not to worry about the result.
“I read my Bible every night, I’ve been continuing to do that out here. For me, it is really important to have the presence of God in me all the time and it gives me more confidence to know that God’s plan is perfect. So I can go on the pitch and know that God has my back,” he told journalists.
“But the main thing for me is just keeping my faith. Just having faith in God so I don’t need to be nervous or worry about any outcomes because obviously this is my first World Cup.
“You know, I can start worrying about different things and different outcomes, but instead I just choose to put my faith in God.”
UK charity CARE said Saka’s openness about his faith was “greatly encouraging” given levels of “hostility” towards Christians in the UK.
Louise Davies, Director of Policy and Advocacy at CARE, called for greater tolerance of Christianity in the public sphere: “It is greatly encouraging to hear a young footballer speak so openly and naturally about his Christian faith. Christians in sport will feel more emboldened to express their beliefs in light of Saka’s testimony this week and at other times.
“Being a Christian in public life isn’t easy. In recent years, people who profess faith in Christ in areas like politics and the media have faced growing intolerance and hostility. They are sometimes treated differently to people with other faiths and no faith.
“We would urge decision-makers to do more to encourage more tolerance and respect when it comes to Christians entering public life. Democracies must ensure that all people feel free to live by and express their closely-held beliefs.”