UEFA Euro 24 footballers open up about their faith, "only defining performance is Jesus"

By Chris Eyte |
UEFA screenshot of Ruben Vargas
Ruben Vargas is a top goal scorer for Switzerland in Euro 24 but his faith is what drives him. | UEFA screenshot of Ruben Vargas

The excitement and furore surrounding the ongoing European Championships, the UEFA Euro 24, is providing a platform for Christian football players to share their testimonies about Jesus Christ. 

Ruben Vargas, 25, who plays in the midfield position for Switzerland, and also Bundesliga club FC Augsburg, pointed to his faith after his team's victory over Italy in round 16 of the tournament on Saturday (June 29).

Vargas first helped teammate Remo Freuler score Switzerland's first goal in the 37th minute. Freuler controlled a low cross and then volleyed the ball into the lower corner of Italy's goal.

Then, at the beginning of the second half, Vargas took advantage of a misfire pass by Italian player Fagioli. He turned and skillfully curled the ball from the left hand side of the penalty area and fired it into the far corner of the Italian net.

Italy could not fight back and lost the game, enabling Switzerland to go through to the quarterfinals for only the second time in their history.

"The goal is for my Father in heaven and for Jesus Christ,” Vargas told Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) during an interview. He was seen on TV cameras crossing himself after the goal in an outward gesture of his faith. 

In an earlier interview with Aargauer Zeitung, published on June 18, Vargas explained that he became a Christian after hearing a lot about the faith as a child. At the time, he said that it was difficult to understand. 

It wasn’t until he began playing for Augsburg in Germany, thanks to the witness of team mate and brother in Christ, Felix Uduokhai, that he discovered a living faith. 

"He also encouraged me to join a Christian community," recalled Vargas, also revealing devotional activities he enjoyed with Uduokhai, which helped him in his faith. "We read the Bible or sing worship songs. This strengthened my faith - and gave me strength for my life."

Vargas also said that he attends a church regularly and follows worship services online. 

Teammate Uduokhai, 26, has also been very vocal about his faith in Christ. Standing at 6ft 2in (188cm), the left-footed defender attends church regularly on Sundays, when he is not needed for training or games for the Bundesliga club. 

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness,” says Uduokhai on his Instagram profile. 

"Whenever I have the opportunity, I try to go to church and attend a service," Uduokhai told sports news channel Spox, back in November 2020. "Or I read the Bible in my quiet time. For me this is the solid foundation on which I stand. Everything else builds on this for me, I draw strength from it, get calm - and also joy.”

Prolific goal scorer for France, Olivier Giroud, 37, has also been seen at Euro 24. The outgoing AC Milan player has scored 57 goals for his country in 136 matches but it is his faith that gives him focus in everyday life.

“It helps me every day, it gives me strength. I read the Bible every day. When you don’t score you are disappointed, but for me the most important thing is to be ready, and resilient. Faith helps me to always believe in it,” Giroud reportedly said. 

Cody Gapko, 25, plays in the forward position for the Netherlands, as well as Liverpool FC. He told Mail Sport that his Christian faith “helps my whole life.”

“It’s a lifestyle for me. I take the Bible with me everywhere and every day, in the UK or wherever else.

“I speak to people about it every day, always trying to learn from it. My family is religious. For four years or something now I've been really trying to get to grips with it.

“I was always searching for something. It’s about learning how to live your life. There’s lots of different passages I like.”

That strength in knowing God’s grace reflected in the Bible holds true for football fans, as much as the big-name stars, according to Brian Glynn, a writer for Christians in Sport. 

Writing about the performance of England in Euro 24 as an illustration, he said that sports are naturally performance driven but the grace of Jesus is sufficient for our lives.  

“The constant requirement to perform for the coach or the fans is exhausting. The internal drive to perform in our lives day in, day out, is unsustainable. But in Jesus we see a better story,” he wrote. 

“When we realize we cannot achieve perfection, we look to Christ’s life and see He is perfect.

“When we despair and believe we are beyond hope, we look to Christ’s death and see He paid with his life for our salvation.

“When we condition ourselves to believe our worth is defined by how we perform, we see Christ’s love that is unconditional.

“The greatest truth for any sportsperson, from England captain to local coach, is to know that the only defining performance is Jesus’ total and eternal victory over sin and death at the cross.”