Natasha Hastings: 'I never give up'


"I want my journey, through my experiences, to be a testimony of what God's done for me."

USA track and field athlete Natasha Hastings first came to prominence as a 16 year old when she won the girls' 400m at the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada. Since then she has progressed into a 400m relay specialist, helping the USA team to win two Olympic and five world titles, most recently at last month's World Athletics Championships in London. Now 31, she talks to us about the joys and challenges of her career over the past 15 years and the strength she draws from her faith as a committed follower of Jesus.

Listen to the interview here:

DR Congo's M'Poku: 'I felt peace and joy I'd never had before'

Paul-Jose M'Poku is a name familiar to fans across Europe. The 25-year-old has played in England, Italy, Greece and is now in Belgium with Standard Liege. A forward with undoubted skill, at national level M'Poku chose to represent DR Congo over Belgium, he speaks about how he doesn't regret his choice and much more in an interview with Planet Sport.

Listen to the interview here:

'Shot Diva' Carter on the greatest love

"The way I'd like to be remembered ... is that I cared and that I loved."

Michelle Carter from the USA won the 2016 Olympic shot put title in dramatic fashion, overcoming New Zealand's Valerie Adams with her final throw to win the gold medal and with it claim a new American record. Michelle talked to us at the recent World Athletics Championships in London where she won the bronze medal about her role as Team Captain to the US team at the event, her passion for her sport and the difference that her faith as a follower of Jesus Christ makes to her life.

Listen to the interview here:



Prayer for Radio Maranatha

Hurricane Irma has has caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2m people. (Photo: NOAA)

Hurricane Irma has has caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2m people. (Photo: NOAA)

This week we read the tragic news that Hurricane Irma has killed at least five people and left a trail of destruction on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin – home to one of our radio station partners, Radio Maranatha 100.3*.

A plane comes into land at St Martin's world-famous airport.

A plane comes into land at St Martin's world-famous airport.

According to reports, the island has been 95% devastated by the storm, which has seen winds of around 175 mph (290 kph) cause widespread damage across several small islands in the northeast Caribbean.

Passion for Sport has been in touch with Radio Maranatha station manager Milan Berdier, who expects them to be off the air for around 2-4 months.

We continue to pray for peace, safety and hope for the staff and ministry of Radio Maranatha – and for those across the island who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma – as they begin to rebuild their station, homes and lives.


*Radio Maranatha 100.3 broadcasts Planet Sport at 07:00 every Friday.

Jacob Heppner: Sport of CrossFit on the rise

Meet Jacob Heppner, a professional 'CrossFitter', which is a thriving and growing sport, birthed in the USA. In his words, it can be defined as- "essentially, the sport of fitness, all about testing how fit you are in a lot of different areas".

The annual CrossFit Games is the pinnacle for all athletes, the winner of which is crowned the 'fittest man/woman alive'. Being a competitor from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 games, we spoke to Jacob about the surge of interest around the globe and what motivates him to compete. 

Listen to the interview here:

Faf Du Plessis on Captaincy, Tattoos and Christ

Faf Du Plessis leads South Africa in the Test Match arena and has long been considered one of the finest batsmen in world cricket. The 33-year-old is a sensation who has featured in global T20 tournaments such as the IPL, Ram Slam and Big Bash.

We spoke with him during the Proteas 2017 tour of England, to talk about the realities of being a pro cricketer and how his faith in Jesus is at the centre of it all. 

Listen to the interview here:

Christian Taylor's Leap of Faith

US Triple Jump world champion leaps through the air at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London (Photo: Enigma Sports)

US Triple Jump world champion leaps through the air at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London (Photo: Enigma Sports)

Double Olympic and three-time world champion in the men's triple jump, Christian Taylor recorded his PB of 18 metres 21 centimetres at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. It was (and remains, for now...!) just 8cms behind the world record set by Britain's Jonathan Edwards back in 1995. During the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London, Christian spoke to us about his hopes of one day setting a new world record, and how his life in athletics is influenced by his strong faith as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Listen to the interview here:

"In this football world it is really tough" - Indonesia's Arthur Irawan

Everyone aspires to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo, but behind the top crop of elite players who grace our screens, there are thousands of footballers simply making their way in the game.

In a Planet Sport exclusive we caught up with Indonesia international and Persija Jakarta defender, Arthur Irawan, who spoke about his career path and the experience he has had, in professional football. This man has represented his country and been signed by a team in the Premier League, La Liga and the Indonesian Liga 1.

As a young teen he was a sharp talent who was quickly sized up by European giants Manchester United, out of the blue:

I was in an academy and this coach sent some of his best boys to England for some trial games. There was a Manchester United scout there who happened to be watching my game, he came up to me and asked me some questions, my parents were there too actually. He said that if I was to move here (to the UK) then I could play in the United academy. This was when I was thirteen, my parents weren’t so keen but two years later I took up on the offer.”

After this opportunity of a lifetime, Arthur was unable to obtain a work permit to play competitively in England, so had to settle for living life on the fringes at his new club.

Arthur, is a man very grateful for the opportunity, in his eyes as one door closes, another opens:

“I went to Spain for some trials, including Espanyol. So I ended up signing four years with them before I moved to Malaga. I have been through a lot of places, which is a blessing in itself from God, it’s not the typical footballer’s route, especially coming from where I do, but I don’t believe in luck, I believe in destiny. Every problem that I have faced, there has been a door to go through.”

Destiny not luck. Arthur accredits every high and low very closely to his belief in God. This is what enabled him to accept that he couldn’t remain a Red Devil and then jump into the trials with La Liga outfits Malaga and Espanyol. A move that ultimately gave him the best years of his footballing education.

Currently, still only 24, he plays back home in Indonesia and is helping to raise the profile of Liga 1, which is now attracting top players such as Michael Essien (ex-Chelsea), Carlton Cole (ex-West Ham) and Didier Zokora (ex-Tottenham).

When asked would he be where he is today without his faith:

“No, no chance, imagine you have nothing to work for, where do you find the sense to get out bed in the morning and go train? In this football world it is really tough, you’ve just got to not doubt and trust in God.”

'Faith plays a big role in my life'

On our latest Planet Sport programme, we talk to Ruhan Nel (above), from the South Africa Rugby 7s side that recently won the 2016/17 World Series title about his rugby and faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. He told us how important his faith is to him and about the role it plays in his life.

We also hear from Indonesian International footballer Arthur Irawan. As a young boy growing up in Indonesia Irawan dreamed of one day playing football in Europe. In his teens he was spotted by a football scout and joined the Manchester United Youth Academy where he made a good impression. With tight work permit controls Arthur was unable to play competitive football in England so went to Spain before returning to Indonesia where he now plays for Persija Jakarta. He talks to us about his life and career in football. 

Listen to the programme here: 




Humble Beginnings: Bayern Munich's Sammy Kuffour

As this year’s UEFA Champions League Final draws ever closer, football fans from around the globe are itching to see who will stride out in competition for the Cup.  Will it be a clash of the titans as Real Madrid and Juventus battle it out together? 

A man who knows only too well about the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with a Champions League final is Sammy Kuffour.  The former Bayern Munich and Ghana defender has seen it all. We recently caught up with the man himself to talk about his tough start in life and how things were transformed by the beautiful game.  

Kuffour, raised in Accra, Ghana, spoke of his humble beginnings and the strain that everyday living had on the family: 

“We were living in an uncompleted house, my upbringing was tough. My father was nowhere to be found and my mother would wake up early to do her job.” 

His desire to play football was clear, but before school he would shine the neighbours’ shoes, going door to door.  Attending school at that point was just a necessity.  

“Whatever you set your eyes on, with your faith behind you, you can achieve”, he said, never losing sight of his real ambitions. His mother was supportive and encouraged Sammy to ‘do what pleased him’.  When he made the Ghana U17 squad this resulted in his mother selling the family TV so that she could buy Sammy some football boots! 

He told us about the change professional football made to his life and how his faith in God was growing in strength alongside. He recounts the U17 World Cup triumph over Spain in 1991 with his beloved Ghana, then later signing for European heavyweights Bayern Munich. Talking of the change in his life the former defender stated: 

“People may doubt you but nothing happens by accident, God knows why it happened like that. God is God and we have to respect him.” 

Fellow players were surprised at the sight of him kneeling down in prayer, before his debut in the Bundesliga against Stuttgart, teammates that would become his close friends, particularly those who shared his faith, Brazilian icons Jorginho and Ze Roberto.   

He would go on to play 175 times for Munich and spent twelve years contracted to the club, an emphatic rise from a shoe-shine boy.  

When asked about his Champions League final experiences he has contrasting tales, first of a hurtful defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the '99 final. However, two years later he lifted the trophy second time around. This is his take: 

“It wasn’t our day, I was hurt, but two years later I had my hands on the trophy which tells you that there is a time and a season for everything. In life you can never doubt God, he can turn things around. Everything is possible for him.” 

Kuffour has always remained fully grounded in his faith in God and knows where the credit lies, on and off the pitch. 

His advice is simple, “Give God a chance to come into your life and see what he can do for you, God knows better than we do in all circumstances so we should just rely on him.”

London Marathon 2017 Special

London Marathon 2017 elite men's and women's winners Daniel Wanjiru (above left) and Mary Keitany (above right) from Kenya.

London Marathon 2017 elite men's and women's winners Daniel Wanjiru (above left) and Mary Keitany (above right) from Kenya.

The London Marathon took place last weekend seeing thousands of runners and spectators take to the streets of the UK's capital. In a special Planet Sport programme, we hear from some of those participants and spectators and talk to the winners of the men's and women's elite races, Daniel Wanjiru and Mary Keitany from Kenya and pre-race favourite Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia about running the second fastest marathon of all time last September in Berlin and his career highlights including world records and Olympic titles. 

We also hear from two top Kenyan athletes, who talk about their anger and disappointment following the suspension of last year's London Marathon winner and 2016 Olympic champion, Jemima Sumgong following a doping offence.

You can listen to the programme, here:

Memories from Athens to Beijing

This year, Passion for Sport is looking back at 25 years of broadcasting from major sporting events. The mission of Passion for Sport is to use media to introduce sports fans to Jesus. This started out as producing radio programmes but today also includes content for social media and online platforms as well.

Passion for Sport media teams at major sporting events provide reports, interviews and special interest pieces such as insights into the local culture and particularly what followers of Jesus are doing to share their faith. The team can often be made up of a mix of nationalities, producing programmes in different languages for different broadcast partners. This can bring its challenges along with technical and practical issues.

Clayton Bjelan broadcasts from his ironing board!

Clayton Bjelan broadcasts from his ironing board!

Clayton Bjelan from Australia remembers joining the media team for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. They were all living and working in a tiny apartment, resulting in Clayton broadcasting from an ironing board!

Part of Clayton’s role involved doing phone pieces for nine radio stations back home starting at 4:30 in the morning - much to the ‘delight’ of the others still trying to sleep. “My now infamous start to each break - “Live from Beijing!” – haunts many a person’s dreams, I’m sure,” he surmises.

Andy Atkinson from the UK was on the media team for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. He remembers: “We were going to a country where people have not seen a lot of people with a disability. While we were there everyone treated me like royalty. They were asking if I needed help or if they could help me. As an independent person, I found this very heard to deal with.”

This wasn’t Andy’s first experience of the Passion for Sport media team as he had previously raised his own funds to join the team reporting from the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. Also on the team for the first time was Pete Ellis (below left) who remembers:

“A team of five of us, three of whom were disabled, took on the challenge of getting around the often congested and not very well maintained streets of the city with a wheelchair and prosthetic limbs. We were based in a church building in Athens with a makeshift shower block, camp beds in Sunday school rooms and lots of stairs! Each morning we prayed together for the day’s events and trusted that God would lead us to the right people to interview.”

Unfortunately the Paralympic Games were not very well attended by the world’s media, however that gave the Passion for Sport media team more opportunities for access to venues and athletes. “Our journalists did a very professional job of getting on the court at the end of one particular basketball match to get some great interviews with the athletes, and photos alongside them with gold medals and victor’s headbands,” remembers Pete.

The 2004 Paralympic Games proved to be a life-changing experience for Andy (right). “After I came back from Athens, I was hooked on radio work and how God can reach people through radio. I volunteered for Christian radio producers HCJB (now Reach Beyond) in Bradford, working as an editor on their radio show. I did that for three years.”

It also made an impression on Pete: “Interviews from Paralympians are especially powerful because of the additional obstacles they have had to overcome in their lives as well as the hard work that any athlete has to put in to be the best in their sport. It was a great privilege to see them in action and to hear what they had to say.” 

'I grew so much in my faith'

Passion for Sport is looking back over 25 years of reporting from major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, Fifa World Cup™, All Africa Games, the Commonwealth Games and World Athletics Championships to name just a few.

The Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 was the first major sporting event when a team of Christians worked together to produce radio programmes about sport with a Christian perspective. Passion for Sport grew out of this with its mission to use media to introduce sports fans to Jesus.

French language programme producer, Vivian Dinan (below left) looks back on his time in the media team at various events with joy and gratitude, saying: 

“Those who led the teams at these different events contributed a lot towards me being able to cherish those priceless moments . . . Their inspired leadership, their human relations approach and their professionalism made things easier, particularly when I had to go to bed very late because I had to upload reports and woke up early to attend events. I also appreciated the daily morning briefings, where we first listened to what God had to say to us through the sharing of the word by one of the team members and then take note of the tasks for the day.”

Taurai Manonge, a video cameraman who joined the team for a week during the London 2012 Olympics made a similar comment: 

“Working with other believers, sharing the faith and encouraging each other in the Lord, while enjoying one of the greatest sporting spectacles was indeed a prayer answered. I grew so much in my faith during that week and seeing the commitment and dedication of the other members who chose to serve God using their profession was a great testimony to me.”

Members of the media team have opportunities to interview top sportsmen and women, officials and fans but also the dignitaries attending the events. Vivian recalls such opportunities:

“I had the privilege at the London Olympics to interview Mr Francois Hollande, the French President. At the Beijing Olympics, I interviewed the President of the Republic of Mauritius, Sir Anerood Jugnauth. In Maputo, Mozambique I had the privilege to interview the Minister of Sport of Congo Brazzaville, Mr Léon-Alfred Opimbat. I also met and interviewed the former President of the IAAF, Mr Lamine Diack.”

As well as getting on with the job of reporting from the event and producing radio programmes, the times together as a team are special, and it seems Vivian has some memorable episodes:

Solomon Ashoms (left) and Vivian Dinan (right).

Solomon Ashoms (left) and Vivian Dinan (right).

“My time . . . allowed me also to work alongside some wonderful team mates. One of them is dear to my heart – Solomon Ashoms. He has always been my room-mate and also my driver! He drove me from Johannesburg, South Africa to Maputo, Mozambique, for the All Africa Games in 2012. A trip of four hours but which took us more than eight hours. My dear driver lost directions! I must admit the return trip was much better.

“Another team mate dear to me is Pedro Arias, our Spanish language reporter. Each time we were on the team, we had fun exploring together what we think was the best place to eat. In Beijing I guess we missed our target. I think we ate dog meat in one place!”

Donate today to support Passion for Sport at major sporting events!

Celebrating 25 years!

Summer 2017 marks 25 years since the radio partnership that grew into Passion for Sport reported from its first major sporting event, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Since then Passion for Sport has reported from a variety of events including the Olympic and Paralympic Games, FIFA World Cup, All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Athletics Championship.

The media teams at each of these events have been made up from a variety of people, nationalities and skills. Some are staff, others volunteers or freelancers – many giving up their time and funding themselves to be involved. As a media team, they gather interviews from sportsmen and women, officials and fans, as well as local churches and Christians who view the events as outreach opportunities. The team produce programmes and then upload them to our dedicated website for broadcasters to access so they can use the material, as well as to our own website - – for listeners to access online.

With now a quarter of a century of reporting from major sporting events, we asked some of those who have been in our media teams for their memories of their time with Passion for Sport, and over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing them with you.

Today Norman Brierley, a regular Passion for Sport reporter, looks back particularly on the All Africa Games.

“At the Africa Games, we had much easier access to athletes for interviews although technically we had greater difficulty in getting our recorded and live material back to the centre for distribution to stations.

A storm leaves the Velodrome roof in tatters at the All Africa Games in 2003.

A storm leaves the Velodrome roof in tatters at the All Africa Games in 2003.

“I remember well the Abuja, Nigeria All Africa Games in 2003 when the velodrome canvas awning was ripped apart one night by a devastating storm! We didn’t have internet access at our main centre of operations but just down the road there was a satellite link to the internet which we were able to use – when it worked.

“Nigerian roads are always full of people and vehicles and it was quite a task getting to the stadium each day. However, access into all venues, athletes and even on the sacred soil of the main stadium to celebrate the occasion was relatively easy. At the Maputo, Mozambique All Africa Games in 2011 journalists were actually surrounding the basketball court as all the seats in the auditorium were taken by spectators!”

Passion for Sport uses media to introduce sports fans to Jesus and Norman remembers when he first took hold of the evangelistic opportunity that sport broadcasting offers.

“My first introduction to using sport as a platform for spreading the gospel was at the India Ocean Games in Victoria, Seychelles in 1993 where Feba Radio started Creole broadcasts to Mauritius; we produced a nightly 30-minutes results-based programme with interviews.

“Then two years later came a much broader involvement by various groups, in using sport in Christian broadcasting, at the All Africa Games in Harare, Zimbabwe, in September 1995. I feel that Passion for Sport must have initially instigated this in some way. Several Christian organisations joined together, hosted by Feba Radio and in co-operation with the BBC, and were able to broadcast sports interviews and features over the Zimbabwe government radio stations in several local languages including English. We were also able to have a greater Africa-wide television outreach over CBN’s 700 Club.

“That was the beginning of an association with Passion for Sport over succeeding years at major sporting events such as further Africa Games, Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

“Reporting from an African sporting occasion is full of fun and incidents, and there seems to be a natural camaraderie and repartee between athlete and reporter. Many athletes would share their faith in Jesus in a very natural and convincing way and this was not only evident in their words but also by their faces.

“Our goal on every occasion is to obtain interviews with athletes who have ‘something to say’ from a spiritual perspective. When we are able to sit down with an athlete and dig a little deeper, beyond the sporting aspect of their lives, nuggets of gold are realised. This was my experience when interviewing the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m gold medallist, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (right) from Jamaica. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ as she was known, bubbly and full of life expressed the joy of knowing her Saviour very clearly. This interview can be heard in the latest Planet Sport programme, following the announcement that she’ll be missing the World Championships this summer as she’s pregnant.

Passion for Sport has not only been introducing sports fans to Jesus through the testimonies of Christian athletes, it has also been challenging athletes themselves to think carefully about a lasting relationship with their Maker.”

By Norman Brierley

Fifa President 'optimistic' about African football

“When it comes to African football I’m very optimistic from what I’ve seen. For me, it has been, from the beginning one of the priorities.” 

So says Fifa President Gianni Infantino, successor to Sepp Blatter and in the role for a year now, when he was in Zimbabwe recently as part of his African tour. Planet Sport Football Africa producer Steve Vickers (who’s based in Harare) had the opportunity to ask him about his vision for African football, leading Infantino to list a number of positive developments. 

Fatma Samoura was appointed to the position of Fifa Secretary General last year.

Fatma Samoura was appointed to the position of Fifa Secretary General last year.

First he mentioned Fatma Samoura from Senegal who was appointed to the position of Fifa Secretary General last year saying she “has international experience and experience in development programmes in general which will help the football development.”

He then went on to mention the Fifa Council, which shapes the sport around the world. “We have increased the number of members from Africa in the Fifa Council from four to seven . . . This gives more voice and more inclusion to the African membership.” Another increase on the horizon is the number of teams participating in the World Cup™. Currently Africa has five teams but with the final number still to be decided upon, it is clear that come 2026 it will be more than they have now.

Most significantly is the increase in financial investment that Fifa is making in African football, from $27 million a year to $94 million a year, for football projects in African Football Associations. Investment available to each Federation has increased five-fold from $250,000 a year to $1,250,000 a year.

Infantino with Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa (right) and Zimbabwe Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane.

Infantino with Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa (right) and Zimbabwe Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane.

Infantino finished by saying: “I’m really convinced that when I see the passion that there is in this continent for football, if we manage to put some structures and channelling a little bit of this passion, with a little bit of work and goodwill, the results will be fantastic. And we are already seeing some of that.”

To hear Solomon Ashoms, Planet Sport Football Africa football analyst, consider whether Infantino will be good for African football, and FIfa Secretary General Fatma Samoura speak about developing women’s football in Africa, listen to Planet sport Football Africa programme 10th March 2017:

'I'm still a seeker'

Andy Searles.jpg

Andy Searles is chaplain at Major League Soccer side Orlando City in Florida, United States. In part one of our interview with him, he compared his role as chaplain with others at the club saying: “It’s the coach’s or the manager’s job to help the players win on the field and it’s my job to help the players win off the field.”

As well as Bible Studies for the players and a chapel service before each game, Andy also offers pastoral care and some counselling services. As a pastor of a church north of Orlando, he sees his work with Orlando City as an extension of his church ministry, which leads us to ask, in the second part of our interview, about his own journey to faith.

“I became a follower of Christ when I was 15 years old. I was brought up in the church. My Dad, who I love dearly, was a minister but the church didn’t have too much attraction to me.”

He goes on to paint an all-too-familiar picture of church in the UK with ageing congregations, concluding, “I found church kind of boring.” But attending church should not be confused with developing a personal relationship with the living God.

“One day I just heard this man – Jesus – talked about in a way that never clicked with me as it did in that moment, and I realised that I had to make a decision. If the claims of Christ were true, if he really loved me, if he really forgave me, if he really had a plan for me then this wasn’t something that could be ignored. So I said: ‘OK God, let me delve a little it deeper. Let’s see what this means. If you’re real, show yourself to me.’ And in some amazing ways he did.”

“I’m still a seeker. I’m still trying to discover more and more of him. I’m in my early 40s now and there is not a day that has passed where I haven’t experienced the presence and the peace and the power of God in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Listen to more of Andy’s interview, when he also answers the question – Is God interested in football?

Listen to part one of the interview.

No glory without hard work

Müller International Grand Prix at the Birmingham Barclays Indoor Arena (Credit: British Athletics/Getty Images).

Müller International Grand Prix at the Birmingham Barclays Indoor Arena (Credit: British Athletics/Getty Images).

If ever an athletics event came alive surely this Müller International Grand Prix at the Birmingham Barclays Indoor Arena did. Forty eight Personal Bests and fourteen National Records were set in a four-hour period on Saturday 18th. February.

We were not disappointed as the expected fireworks in both the Women's 1000m and the Men's 5000 metres materialised.

Laura Muir from Scotland in the 1000 metres was paced over 800 metres by Jenny Meadows and went on to gain her European and National Record of 2:31.93 minutes – only one second away from the World Record.

Olympic 5000 & 10000 metres Champion Sir Mo Farah (Credit: British Athletics/Getty Images).

Olympic 5000 & 10000 metres Champion Sir Mo Farah (Credit: British Athletics/Getty Images).

Not to be outdone, Sir Mo Farah, after a disappointing Edinburgh cross-country six weeks earlier, had a 5000 metres race on his hand with the Bahrainian Albert Rop hounding Mo to the line in a National Record time of 13:09.16 minutes – a race where the first four obtained National Records for their respective countries.   

Another race which produced twelve Personal Bests was the Women's 3000 metres. Hellen Obiri of Kenya, a consistent middle-distance runner, came good with a National Record of 8:29.41 minutes.

Our appetite for the outdoor season was further whetted by the explosive running of the Jamaican Elaine Thompson, Olympic Champion at both 100 and 200 metres, and who seems to be improving on each outing. She gained her Personal Best and Stadium Record of 6.98 seconds for the 60 metres.

Olympic Long Jump Champion Jeff Henderson (Credit: British Athletics/Getty Images).

Olympic Long Jump Champion Jeff Henderson (Credit: British Athletics/Getty Images).

There were many other outstanding displays that gave the capacity crowd of 15800 something to shout about and yet each of the athletes I interviewed (including Laura Muir, Sir Mo Farah, Hellen Obiri, Jeff Henderson, Aries Merritt and Godfrey Khotso Mokoena) indicated their efforts and laurels only came about through hard work. Unless they do the hard work and put in the miles and dedicate themselves to the techniques required then they do not achieve their goals.

And even then things don't come easy. Every athlete goes through injury problems. Others struggle with their run-ups. Still some have huge family disappointments. Major health issues disrupt a number and yet they still press on! What determination, perseverance, stick-ability, and some even cry out to God in their situation and He answers!  

Both last week's Planet Sport and this week's programme bring perspectives on the Müller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham:  

By Norman Brierley

Winning off the field

Orlando City Soccer Club chaplain Andy Searles prays with some of the MLS side's players.

Orlando City Soccer Club chaplain Andy Searles prays with some of the MLS side's players.

In his role as chaplain at Major League Soccer side, Orlando City, in Florida, United States, Andy Searles confesses that no two days are the same. So what does a chaplain do, and in the big money world of professional football, does having a chaplain really add value to what goes on at a soccer club? Adrian Barnard seeks to find answers in the first part of his interview for Planet Sport.

“I think I would define the primary thing that I do as trying to offer some player care,” is how Andy sees his role.

“That expresses itself in many ways,” he continues. “For some of the faith-based players and those who are followers of Jesus, there’s some pastoral care, we have some Bible studies and we have a chapel service before each game in the locker room. But I also offer some services beyond that, to those who maybe aren’t of faith at this time, or have got issues. I offer some counselling services, some support on really anything they need.”

Andy is a pastor, leading a church in Casselberry, just north of Orlando with his chaplain’s work sitting alongside it. 

“I consider my work with Orlando City as an extension of my ministry in the church and in the community where I serve on a regular basis.”

But in the very commercial of Major League Soccer where there is huge investment and a vast number of people involved in the club, what does a chaplain contribute?

“It’s the coach’s job or the manager’s job to help the players win on the field and it’s my job to help the players win off the field.”

“I hope that I’m able to remind the players and the staff, and even the fans on occasion, that there is a life that is really important and that really matters – outside of the game. I hope that I can remind the players that relationships are important, that their family matters, that one day they won’t be playing soccer and what they do with the rest of their life is crucially important to them.”

“I find myself mentoring a lot and just trying to be an encouraging presence towards the things off the field. You need to remember that a lot of these men are very young and they have a pretty big spotlight on them. They probably have more money in their bank accounts than we do. And while many in the world would say that’s a great thing, to have that fame and the money, and everything that comes with that, I think that the gospel says that those two things can cause a lot of trouble, a lot of temptation. Perhaps my job is to help these guys manage those responsibilities in ways that are beneficial to them and their families and their faith over the long haul.”

Andy grew up in England and continues supporting Ipswich Town FC despite now living in the USA. He speaks from personal experience of how football can take over a life.

“Football was such an integral part of my life growing up and perhaps to my shame, to my sin, soccer became kind of like an idol to me. If we [Ipswich] won, everything was great in my world; if we lost, it wasn’t. One of the things that happened was that I moved to the US and couldn’t keep up with soccer as much, that idol was starved within me. So I now kind of feel that God is allowing me to minister into a fallen idol and it’s great to be engaged with the game again.”

Listen to Part 1 of Adrian’s interview with Andy, here:  

Part two of the interview will feature in the Planet Sport programme 2/3/2017 when Andy shares his own journey to faith and tells us why he’s chaplain at Orlando City, when the role is as an unpaid volunteer.

'High expectations' for Indoor Grand Prix

20-year old Trayvon Bromell will be competing in Birmingham at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix.

20-year old Trayvon Bromell will be competing in Birmingham at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix.

Last weekend in Sheffield, British Athletics hosted successful British Indoor Athletics Championships and team trials, with a mixture of new and old faces coming through the represent their country at international level.

This Saturday, athletes from the USA, Europe, Australasia and Africa will meet at the Barclay Arena in Birmingham for the Müller Indoor Grand Prix. Passion for Sport reporter Norman Brierley will be there. He writes:

“In past years we have experienced exceptional competition where national and world indoor records have been set. I remember well the efforts of Sir Mo Farah in 2015 as he broke the Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele’s world 2-mile record in a time of 8 minutes 3.40 seconds.

“The expectations of athletes at these events have been quite challenging. Kevin Craddock a 60 metres American hurdler held on for dear life in the 2016 event, as he sensed he wouldn’t get through his heat but eventually came second in the final in a time of 7.71 seconds. 

“The young 20-year old Trayvon Bromell showed his metal in the 2015 Beijing World Athletics Championships in the 100 metres by taking the Bronze medal behind Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin. Expectations were high for him last year but he was injured in the warm up and could not compete. However, in spite of injuries Trayvon knows his life is in God’s hands. 

“Many Rio Olympic champions and stars are now confirmed to compete alongside some of the best athletes in the world at the state-of-the-art Barclay Arena this weekend.

“Britain’s top female sprinter, Dina Asher-Smith will face the double Olympic champion, Elaine Thompson of Jamaica over 60 metres in what will be a spectacular clash.

“Expectations are high once again as we look forward to an attempt being made at the 1,000 metres British record and possibly the World record. Laura Muir from Scotland is in top form and just last month smashed the British 5,000 metres indoor record by 14 seconds in a new time of 14 minutes 49.13 seconds.”

Don’t miss next week’s Planet Sport programme as we reflect back on what is sure to be a sensational Müller Indoor Grand Prix.