Nicolas Vilas spent three years investigating the links between faith and soccer and wants to keep religious and political slogans off the FIFA field.
While some displays are considered okay, others are not. FIFA has specific regulations in place regarding the use of political or religious displays. Brazilian players in particular have always had a habit of “proclaiming their faith in spectacular ways”. FIFA, however, wants to put a stop to the swirling controversy storm that these displays spark, though they may risk being called “anti-religious”. Is it really possible to disrupt the link between faith and football? A study by French sports writer, Nicolas Vilas, says otherwise.
Football and Faith: a link defined
Links founded by Nicolas Vilas have proven to be fairly important as he discovered that religious groups helped found a majority of Europe’s football sides. While some have roots with evangelical Christianity, others incorporate their Muslim religious requirements into their playing. All sides are adamant in abandoning their obligations for a game. Rather, many Muslim players organize their matches and sessions around their obligatory fasting and prayers. Many club managers attempt to accommodate all their players’ needs as sensitively as possible.
The Spark of Controversy
The religious debate jumped in scale since the release of a documentary by Canal+, a program in France. The very same day that Germany’s Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as homosexual, the documentary was aired featuring the French club’s Paris Saint-Germain footballer, Alex, proclaiming “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves” and their former defender, Marcos Ceara, declaring “I’m not really for homosexuality. For me, that is a little out with God’s plan.”
While PSG is partnered with Paris Foot Gay, an organization against homophobia in football, the group had little to say on Alex’s comment and less on Marcos’. A spokesperson was reported as stating that “in the remarks reported to [them], there was no incitement of hatred,” adding that they had bigger fish to fry.
FIFA’s rules specifically ban the use of T-shirts and other garments, with law 4 stating that “players must not reveal undergarments showing slogans or advertising. The basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements.” FIFA is not against religion, they simply wish to make the sport free of controversy and the violation of freedom.
Brazil’s displays of religion are particularly controversial, as many are Pentecostalists, a religion in which many of the leaders attack people with other faiths. The bigger stars, such as Kaka and Lucio, have been known to reveal T-shirts with slogans like ‘I belong to Jesus’ and ‘I love God’ last month alone. FIFA has stated that kneeling to pray is alright, however, these instances are blatantly against their rules.