World Cup, global religion: Resources on ‘football’ and faith

Fans and observers of the 2010 World Cup have offered up numerous analogies between soccer — or what most of the world calls football — and religion. ReligionLink has a number of stories and resources that pertain to the tournament in South Africa.


Most sports these days seem to prompt comparisons to religion among both devotees and critics, but soccer seems to produce more than its share of spiritual moments. Part of the reason may be the global reach of the game. It is estimated that more than 2 billion people will have watched matches throughout the tournament, and they bring a cultural, national, ethnic and, yes, sometimes religious identity to their fandom.

But as experts say, after organized worship, athletic competition is perhaps the oldest communal impulse known to mankind. In ancient times, games were often part of religious rituals, and vice versa. While Christianity largely sundered the connection between sports and religion, many experts say that the two mirror each other today as much as they did at any time in history.

News articles and research

  • “Calendar: World Cup 2010”

    See an interactive guide to all the games and teams, broken down by schedule, venue, and groups and stages.

  • “2010 FIFA World Cup”

    Read the Wikipedia entry on the 2010 World Cup. The entry provides a useful overview of the tournament and historical background. As with any open-source site, reporters should double-check all information in the entry.

  • “Who’s Afraid of Sacred Soccer?”

    “Who’s Afraid of Sacred Soccer?” is a June 16, 2010, essay at by Gary Laderman, head of the Department of Religion at Emory University.

  • “The Evangelicalism of Brazil”

    Read “The Evangelicalism of Brazil,” a June 14, 2010, post at the World Cup blog of The New Republic, about the number of dedicated evangelical Protestants on Brazil’s team and what it says about religion in what was once a Catholic stronghold in Latin America.

  • “Is God watching World Cup soccer?”

    Read “Is God watching World Cup soccer?,” a June 13, 2010, entry at USA Today‘s religion blog, Faith & Reason, which rounds up a number of stories related to religion and the tournament.

  • “New DVD features soccer’s elite addressing issues of faith”

    One of those stories is a June 11, 2010, item from Baptist Press’ sports pages about evangelicals using the World Cup spotlight to witness to their faith.

  • “Love and Devotion: The World Cup and the ‘Religion’ of Soccer”

    Another is a June 10, 2010, piece at The Huffington Post, “Love and Devotion: The World Cup and the ‘Religion’ of Soccer,” by Bradley B. Onishi, a doctoral candidate in the religious studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

  • “The religion of football”

    Read “The religion of football,” a June 4, 2010, post at CNN’s Belief Blog about the parallels one author sees between his religion and his passion for soccer.

Related source guides