The gospel according to soccer – Part 1


A few months ago I was talking with Brian Fikkert, who wrote an incredible Foreword to the book, In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence, which I had the opportunity to co-write and edit. At one point during our conversation about how God brought together 15 people from all over the world to contribute to our book and make it happen, I thanked him for being such a big part of the team.

Rather than simply saying “You’re welcome,” though, he responded, “You’re giving me way too much credit—I hardly did anything. I just wrote a few pages.”

Whether or not he actually believed his words, I felt obliged to set the record straight, saying, “Yes, you only wrote three pages, but they were an extremely important three pages that set up the entire book. You were a huge part of the team. The book wouldn’t have been the same without those three pages. And nobody else could have written those three pages as you did, with the credibility that you brought to them. Sometimes the seemingly little things play a huge role in the bigger picture.

Goalkeeper“It’s like a goalie in a soccer game. Sometimes a goalie only makes one save in a game and only touches the ball a couple times. Sometimes a goalie never even touches the ball during a game. But nobody who knows the game would ever say that the goalie is not a critical member of the team—even in those games that he doesn’t even touch the ball. Think about it, if he’s not there protecting the goal, the game is completely different. The other team would simply be able to shoot from anywhere and score a goal.”

That simple goalie analogy that came to me during our conversation got me thinking about the parallels between soccer (“football” for anyone outside the US) and other areas of life, including how soccer relates to excellence in leadership, church ministry, and orphan care. (This gives you a bit of insight into my life–I might think about soccer a bit too much). The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that everyone who works with others (pretty much everyone in the world) has a lot to learn from the sport of soccer. For example, in the orphan care movement that I’m involved with, the teamwork, leadership, and other principles core to soccer can teach us many valuable lessons about how we need to collaborate and work together as a healthy team if we are ever going to reach maximum effectiveness and make a dent in the extremely complex orphan crisis we’re all facing in our world today.

Over the next several weeks, I will be going through many of the lessons that we can learn from the beautiful game, starting next week with why it’s so important for anyone doing cross-cultural work to be fluent in the universal language of soccer.

Join me on this journey . . . share a comment with something you have learned from soccer that makes you more effective in your life off the soccer field?