This is the question which most people ask themselves each moment players from their beloved teams line up at the goalposts while others take it to the center circle where they bow down before having a short prayer.
It is also very common in our local football especially with Dembare and Makepekepe soccer players who are well known for seeking divine intervention before every match.
The Dembare team will do their divine ritual across the goal line while Makepekepe invades the center circle.
It has emerged that these two teams and others as well will never kick start a match without the prayer. The question therefore remains, do prayers really help players? Or it is just a belief that has engulfed most of local players?
Last year, former Dynamos coach Lloyd Mutasa made headlines through his superstitious move of sprinkling every player with ‘Holy water’ before every match, all in a bid to emerge as the winner.
Before the millennium, both local and regional soccer players were known of using magical powers often referred to as ‘Juju’ as almost every player fortified himself for glory.
There were often tales of goalkeepers claiming to see a hare speeding towards the goal area while others would claim to see short men in every corner of the pitch, but all these hallucinations have become a thing of the past.
African players have resorted to God’s power. The recent Africa Cup of Nations saw almost every player resorting to God’s power but it was only Zambia’s Stoppila Sunzu who took the last and winning penalty with his lips moving like those of the biblical Hannah, seemed to have his prayer answered.
Sports persons from Muhammad Ali to Jonathan Edwards, the triple jumper, have all spoken about the power of faith.
They believe in different theologies, but all would assert they have benefited from their convictions. As Ali put it in the build-up to his clash with George Foreman in 1974, “How can I lose with Allah on my side?”
A good example again is the Brazilian team which combines prayer with on the field success.
Midfielder Kaka is well known for his celebration routine where he points both fingers to heaven or to reveal a t-shirt printed “I belong to Jesus”.
But this belief is not created out of nowhere; it is manufactured within a context. Anything that imbues the treatment with greater authenticity will strengthen belief.
Argentinean legend Diego Maradona thanked the ‘Hand of God’ when he deceived the world after scoring using a hand.
The placebo effect provides one possible explanation as to why those with religious beliefs have better healthy outcomes.
It’s not just ‘Christian sportsmen’ who believe the power of God in their sporting activities but other religious sects too for example the Muslims and Bhudaists. It would seem that it is not the content, but the strength of belief that matters.
According to Anne Harrington, Professor of Medical history at Havard University puts it: There is an innate capacity for our bodies to bring into being, to the best of their ability, the optimistic scenario in which we fervently believe”
Even away from faith, there are examples where belief can appear to change outcomes in sport. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has worn the same shin pads since he was 16 while Manchester United’s Nani plays with his socks the wrong way round.