My father gave me his love for football. So I started playing when I was eight. It’s always been my dream, my passion, to play as a professional. I became a professional player when I was 18. Then my dream was to play in the World Cup matches in South Africa. It was a big dream come true!
I started playing football as a kid in a small town in southern Italy. We all played football in the streets, so it was the only thing I ever dreamed about as a child — making it big. When I was 13 I made a promise to God that if He gave me the opportunity to become a footballer, I would serve Him.
My parents were Christ-followers and I’ve always believed that there was, and is, Someone up there who loves me. But I pretended I didn’t see Him, and I did my own thing and followed what the world offers today to young people. I came to know Jesus only when I decided to get to know Him — God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children. That day I realized that everything I had been told in the past was true, after all. So I saw for myself that Jesus is real, Jesus is alive, Jesus is not a fairytale, Jesus really rose from the dead in that tomb and He is alive today. When you seek Him today, He answers you. I noticed this in my life and that is what I want others to know: that Jesus lives.
The Christ-following player in the world of football needs to show others that Christ makes a difference in his life. This is my job and God calls me to do my job at 100 percent. Give your best, says the Bible, as if you were doing it for Him. I like to show people with my attitude that Jesus makes a difference in my life. I can’t tell the attackers, “Come and score,” just because I am a Christ-follower! So this is my job, I have to defend the goal. I am human, but above anything, I do my job on the field as a professional.
I think that the thing that faith does in the lives of the people who have it, is that it doesn’t eliminate the problems, but helps to overcome them. In life we have to accept everything that happens. There is life and there is death. There is winning and there is losing. So how do I deal with problems? I deal with them with the peace and the calm that only faith — only Jesus — can give me. The rich man, even if he has everything, even if he is famous, he notices that this is not enough…that all these things in his life cannot be enough.
From the Bible I can understand what God wants, who God is, and what God is like — His character, His characteristics — and I use this book as a mirror. Even if it was written 2,000-3,000 years ago, the Bible is still relevant, modern and true today. It is like a GPS, a guide, a path where I understand what is bad and what is good.
So why Jesus? Because Jesus completes us and fills that emptiness that everyone has. When you ask Jesus for help, He’s always faithful and He always lets you find Him.
— Nicola Legrottaglie, Italian footballer