Christianity and football in Nigeria: Game of Our Lives Episode 2

In the second episode of Game of Our Lives, host David Goldblatt discusses the Pentecostal Church football club that rose to the top of the Nigerian Premier League with Godwin Enakhena.

    How does an intramural church competition produce one of the top football teams in the Nigerian Premier League?

    "It's simple," says Godwin Enakhena, the director of sports for Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) and former sporting director of MFM Football Club (MFM FC), "consistency".

    According to Enakhena, the guest in the second episode of Game of Our Lives, MFM FC's incredible ascent is due to the team's commitment to each other, to the game, and to the church.

    In 2007, the Lagos Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, a Pentecostal church with chapters worldwide, founded an intramural football competition with the sole intention of providing guidance to Nigerian youth.

    Less than a decade later, MFM FC became the first church club to play in the country's premier league, and today, their success is shining a light on the state of the Nigerian domestic game.  

    "It's not a conventional football club," says Enakhena, as he describes MFM FC to Game of Our Lives host David Goldblatt.

    The church takes care of the team and its players as if they were family, a rather stark contrast to the unstable world of Nigerian professional football, where, Goldblatt adds, "wages are low, late, and often absent".

    As with all games, there are rules of play. And in the case of MFM FC, those rules align with the church.

    "You must conform, like you guys say, 'When you are in Rome, you behave like the Romans'. So, you are in a church and you're playing for a football team, that means you must comport yourself within and outside of the football team," Enakhena says in the episode.

    The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry in Lagos isn't the only religious institution forging a connection between football and faith.

    The history of Pentecostal Christianity and football runs deep, across Africa and throughout the rest of the world.

    In Nigeria, the Pentecostal church is one of the fastest growing social movements, with a membership of nearly 21 percent of the population.

    "Amazingly," Goldblatt says, "the Pentecostal church and their preachers are pretty much the only people who are actually selling out football stadiums in Nigeria".

    You can hear the full conversation between Enakhena and Goldblatt in the player above.

    Then, visit Game of Our Lives to read an excerpt about the relationship between football and the Pentecostal church in Africa, from Goldblatt's forthcoming book, Football is First: The Global Game in the Twenty First Century.

    Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram at @gameofourlives.

    Subscribe for free on Apple PodcastsStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen on our Facebook page.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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