The World Cup is just around the corner. This Friday begins the official competition between thirty-two of the world’s top soccer teams. I don’t know about you all, but I enjoy any chance I can get to unite behind a team that represents my entire country. During the rest of the year I’m an avid fan of my various favorite sports teams, but there’s still something rousing about being able to chant “U-S-A” and wear copious amounts of red, white, and blue.
This year, a certain goalie is finally getting his chance to shine on the world stage. Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the United States team, seems to have attained that ideal mixture of experience and skill as he gets set to guard the goal against the top soccer players in the world. That alone would be enough to sit up and take notice of Howard during this year’s World Cup.
Tim Howard also demonstrates immense resiliency and willpower in his personal life. At age nine, he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. In an interview with CNN Correspondent Steve Kroft a few years ago, Howard “says it's difficult to control when he's nervous, stressed or anxious. So how did he control it while being a goalie for Manchester United? “Go figure," he says. "I know. That's the catch.” He has always refused to take medication for fear it might dull his senses and reflexes. Later, in the same interview he says to an audience, “I can embrace TS. I can meet it head on. I deal with it, I live with it, I try and excel with it, but I don’t suffer from it. That’s the one thing I don’t do.”
Besides all this there’s a different reason that I consider him to be one of my sports heroes. There’s still something more that sets Tim Howard apart from your average inspiring sports story. It’s his understanding of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In an article in the Christian publication WorldWide Challenge, Howard says, “The most important thing in my life is Christ. He's more important to me than winning or losing or whether I'm playing or not. Everything else is just a bonus.” More recently he talked about his faith in this CNN interview, saying, “My grandmother, she was a Christian. She tried to instill that in her family, or our family, and it’s been a huge positive in my life, certainly since I was a young adult. It’s always something that I’ve always felt very strongly towards and it was a void that was filled in my life when I accepted Jesus Christ.”
Tim Howard’s story is one that’s worth noticing. And maybe as you watch the World Cup this time around, you’ll be able to cheer for him not just as a great athlete with a determined spirit, but also as a fellow brother in Christ.