“Athletes are the messengers of our countries in the world. They are rolemodels for young people. Body training is connected with soul and spirit training .” The head of the Hellas Church, Archbishop of Athens and Greece, Christodoulos Paraskevaides, believes that the development of sports and physical culture in the country was very important. Yesterday, he received a delegation of Olympic champions of Greece, ITAR-TASS informed. The president, 18 members of the Association of Greek Olympic champions, and deputy Panagiotis Fasulas, who used to be a basketball player, were invited to participate in the meeting.
Christodoulos said that the whole of humanity respects Greece, because this country gave birth to the Olympic Games. “Greek athletes are supposed to win as many gold medals as possible at the next Olympics of the year 2004, which will take place in Athens.” The archbishop says that sports are “a creative way out for the youth. Sports save young people from drugs, and famous athletes show a very good example of never-ending self-perfection.”
Unfortunately, Russia cannot boast of a thought-out program for development of the domestic sports on the state level. We know about our athletes’ achievements; we write about it and talk about it, but only a few people know what it took for them to win their medals. There is no program on the national television that tells the stories of the past or present of Russia’s outstanding athletes. Maybe, Russian officials will pay some attention to the state of things in the field of Russian sports after the notorious failure at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Speaking about the connection between sport and religion, we have to say that there are athletes in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine whose faith is one of the major guidelines in their lives.
For example, the well-known Soviet football player, sevenfold champion of the USSR, and twice winner of the European Cup of Cups Oleg Blokhin (who has been a coach of Greek teams during the recent years, by the way). An attendant of the press-service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church managed to talk to this legendary player.
Speaking about Greeks, Oleg Blokhin says that their entire history is connected with Orthodoxy, so “it is not surprising at all that a Greek wants a blessing before he or she starts doing something.” For instance, a priest consecrates the field, the goal, the sports base, and blesses players and their coaches before the football championship of Greece. This is their traditional order, which does not at all bother the game or the process of training. Church and faith help a human being. About three years ago, our players hurt themselves during every training game: someone would hit his head or cut his face. We invited a priest, and nobody made any caustic remarks about that.”
“I think that when I used to score goals before, or when I could do something successful during the games that I have played, I think that it all was possible with the help from above. I was baptized as a child. My mother gave me a little crucifix, and I still have it. My daughter is baptized as well. I am not a fanatic, and I am not doing this as a show, but I do go to church, even if I have very little spare time. This month I have been there four times. It is very important to go to church: not only to pray, but just to stand still and concentrate on your thoughts.”
“Sport and faith are not incompatible, and my Greek experience allows me to say this with responsibility. These two notions can definitely help the youth and detract young people from drugs, alcohol, and criminality. If a church has an opportunity to establish and maintain sports schools in its congregation, then it would be just perfect. We are connected with Orthodoxy due to our history and culture, and we cannot imagine any other faith for ourselves. Therefore, if there could be an opportunity to establish such a school in which young people could train, exercise, and pray, this would go together with the spirit of our times. A priest in the army is not a shocker, so why not having priests in sports schools? The church also realizes the important role that sports play in our lives. We have to join our forces, because the people are in need of the physical and spiritual health.”
Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov