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"God answers my prayers everywhere except on the golf-course."

Billy Graham

Cross the line

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Ollie Baines and Liam Flint, London, SPCK, 2016. ISBN 978-0-281-07680-2

The book, which is subtitled ‘Christian footballers talk God, faith and the beautiful game’, consists of 20 interviews with Christian footballers. Each interview is presented in Q and A format, with about 10-15 questions per interview.

Inevitably the selection is a mixed bag from World Cup winner to players who only just made it into the professional game. Most are current players but some are well past their retirement from the game. I suspect that the average reader would be hard pressed to look at the list of players and name the current club of more than half of them.

Equally inevitably faith means different things to different people. While some players come across as having a deep faith, others appear more superficial.

The weakness for me in a book like this is the issue of quality control. I make that comment not in a superior way but as one who failed spectacularly in helping give profile to “Christian” sportspeople whose faith or spiritual maturity did not justify the profile they were given, resulting in gospel ministry to sport being damaged. Are all the players in the book regularly attending a good church? Are they walking the walk as well as talking the talk? – are reasonable questions to ask.

The interviews consist of “nice” questions. Several of the players in the book have been involved in public incidents where their actions did not commend the gospel. The sports journalist within me would have liked to have seen the difficult questions asked.

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