.- The Vatican’s sports office has paid tribute to Chelsea striker Didier Drogba after the Catholic soccer star gave credit to God for his team’s UEFA Champions League victory.
“The Vatican and the Holy Father is always very interested in such athletes as they are role models for others,” Father Kevin Lixey, the director of the Vatican’s Office of Church and Sport, told CNA in a May 21 interview.
He explained that “if they give thanks to God for their talents, it is good for the young people who admire these star athletes.”
Drogba and his Chelsea teammates clinched European soccer’s ultimate prize against Germany’s Bayern Munich on May 19, with the Ivory Coast striker proving to be the hero of the night for the London club.
Drogba’s heroics began with him evening the score at 1-1 with only two minutes left on the clock. The game was still a draw after extra time expired, leading to a shoot out in which Drogba drove home the winning goal.
On both occasions the African player celebrated by blessing himself with the Sign of the Cross.
“It was fate, I believe a lot in destiny. I pray a lot. It was written a long time ago. God is wonderful. This team is amazing,”34-year-old Drogba told the media after the game.
Saturday is not the first time that Didier Drogba has thanked God for his soccer skills. Before leaving in 2004 from his previous club, Olympique de Marseille in France, he gave his team shirt to the local Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Garde, where it is still on display.
Away from the soccer pitch, Drogba has attempted to use his fame to bring peace to his native Ivory Coast. The small West African state has been plagued by civil wars during the past decade. Drogba is one of 11 members of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and last year was named in Time magazine's 100 most influential people in recognition for his work.
Fr. Lixey, an American priest based in Rome, drew a parallel between Didier Drogba’s comments and the conduct of American football player Tim Tebow.
He explained how the New York Jets backup quarterback also recognizes that he has “a short time to witness to his faith” and views his career as “a window of opportunity” to evangelize.
Fr. Lixey believes there is “no correlation between victory and their prayers,” but he does think that Christian sportsmen are more likely to “give more to others in the team and can get along better with teammates.”