21 March, 2008

The Touch of God

After a professional footballer retires, it’s rare to ever hear about them again unless it’s for the wrong reasons. The thing is that for those recently retired players (and certainly this current generation when they eventually retire) they have so much money that they’re set for life, so unless it’s to indulge in a spot of punditry for walking-around money, what reason is there to surface again? Having a kitty of literally millions of pounds in your mid-40s means that you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want, be it traveling, writing, monster truck racing or just good old fashioned whoring.

To say then that Mateja Kezman raised a few eyebrows this week when he announced plans to become a monk after retiring, would be a slight understatement. The Fenerbahce striker has declared that when his playing days are over he fully intends to spend “as much time as he can thinking of God.” Unconventional sure, but I guess admirable when so many players seem to get into the game for all the wrong reasons these days, namely money and the celebrity circus that tends to follow it. STT man-crush and World Player of the Year Ricky Kaka’ intends to follow a similarly spiritual route too, always claiming that his true calling was to be a preacher back home at his local church in Brasilia, Brazil. Not many people know that having just broken into the Sao Paulo first team at the age of 18, Kaka’ actually suffered a career-threatening and possibly paralysis-inducing spine fracture as a result of a swimming pool accident. He miraculously made a full recovery, and the already-spiritual maestro attributed this to God, donating one-tenth of all his income since to his church. Again, it’s encouraging that at least one player is able to keep some element of humility in the game, and even if you consider a tenth to be fairly tight, bear in mind that a tenth of Kaka’s annual salary is still the best part of 1million Euros.

If we’re really talking about going in off the religious deep end though, look no further than former Argentinian international goalkeeper Carlos Roa, who didn’t even wait until his career was coming to an end before jumping ship to Noah’s Ark. Incredibly, the devout Seventh-day Adventist temporarily quit the game at the age of 29 to genuinely prepare for Judgement Day. He reasonably believed that the world would completely end at the dawning of the third Millennium and retreated to a farm in rural Argentina to preach while waiting for the apocalypse to arrive. “The year 2000 is going to be difficult,” Roa declared to the Spanish press after quitting La Liga side Mallorca. “In the world, there is war, hunger, plague, much poverty, floods. I can assure you that those people who don't have a spiritual connection with God and the type of life that he wants will be in trouble,” he prophecised. Thankfully for STT and all other non-believers, Roa was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, and returned to Mallorca not long after his sabbatical to play professionally for another good few years.

It’s hard to imagine any of England’s current crop going this route after finishing their careers unfortunately, but if this article’s done nothing else, the mere thought of maybe seeing Rio Ferdinand as the Bishop of Westminster in a couple of decade’s time should be enough to put a smile on your faces for the rest of the day: ‘BLAP! And dat iz how God totally MERKED all dem fassy-‘oles, believe.’

Happy Easter folks!