Goal! Colombian missionary uses soccer to encourage Cameroon boys to hear God's Word
Who says religion and sports do not fit well together?
A Colombian missionary sent to evangelise in the African nation of Cameroon is using soccer to encourage locals, especially the young ones, to listen to God's Word.
Father William Cañón transforms from priest to soccer coach every Sunday to bring joy and also teach Christian values such as discipline and camaraderie to some 60 local children.
"After going to the Eucharist, we gather and provide a time of Christian formation; then, with my limited knowledge of sports, we play soccer," Cañon told the Spanish Colombia Daily El Tiempo, as quoted by the Catholic News Agency.
The missionary recalled the bad situation in Cameroon when he first arrived in the African country: The culture of machismo was prevalent and a lot of men were engaged in polygamy.
On top of a deteriorating moral and spiritual situation, Cameroon was also faced with shortages in basic supplies like water, food and electricity. Various diseases were also plaguing the country.
Amid all this gloom, something grabbed the missionary's attention: Young boys particularly from the city of Mamfe were very fond of playing soccer despite their lack of resources.
"Seeing them arrive is an unimaginable sight. Some come barefoot, but with great joy on their faces. Most of them are spontaneous and sincere boys," Cañon shared.
Seeing this, he decided to reach out to the residents through this popular sport. This wasn't too difficult for the missionary, being a fan of Independiente Santa Fe, the Bogota football team which won the Copa Sudamericana last year.
Now, some children even walk for up to three hours to hear God's Word during Sunday Masses, followed by fun soccer matches on the dirt ground using makeshift goals. Cañon also makes sure to start each game with a prayer.
"Above all, they're grateful, because it's the only time they have to have fun and dream. Despite the circumstances and difficulties, they're always there," the priest shared.
"The children are happy with little, and with the lives they have," he added.