FOOTBALL’S governing body has sparked controversy after disciplining the Brazilian team for overt displays of Christian piety during a match.
Stars including Â£56million Real Madrid forward Kaka and captain Lucio revealed T-shirts with slogans such as I Belong to Jesus and I Love God during the Confederations Cup final last month.
Now FIFA has risked accusations of being “anti-religious” by reminding Brazil of its guidelines banning players from making displays of a personal, religious or political nature on the football pitch.
According to this report, a warning letter was sent to the Brazilian football federation “to remind them of the relevant regulations, so that such incidents do not recur in the future”.
Brazilian players, and Kaka in particular, are well-known for their strong religious beliefs and the squad and backroom staff formed a large circle and sank to their knees in prayer after the victory over the US at the end of last month.
In the subsequent team photographs, many players were wearing the Christian T-shirts, with captain Lucio prominent as he lifted the trophy.
But Brazil’s display of faith had an extra element of controversy because most of the players are Pentecostalists, whose leaders have been accused of violating religious freedom by attacking those of other faiths.
In the light of Brazil’s high-profile display of faith, seen around the world by millions of television viewers, the head of football in Denmark wants all religious statements banned from football.
Jim Stjerne Hansen, secretary general of the Danish football association, said:
Just as we reject political manifestations, we should also say no to religious ones. There are too many risks involved in clubs, for example, with people of different religious faiths.
FIFA rules specifically ban the use of T-shirts or other undergarments, but there is nothing that outlaws prayer or other displays of religious belief. Law 4, which deals with players’ equipment, reads:
Players must not reveal undergarments showing slogans or advertising. The basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements.
Brazil have escaped sanction, just as they did following a similar display of T-shirts after their 2005 Confederations Cup win, but football has made its intention clear to keep religion, as well as politics, out of sport.