Commercial and bureaucratic hindrances collided with an uncontrollable reality: the faith of many players.
The goalkeeper of Real Madrid hopes to win his third Champions League on Saturday. “Christ gives me wisdom to keep my feet on the ground and be humble in moments of blessing and happiness”.
Liverpool FC and Real Madrid are hours away from playing the Champions League final, the highlight of the football season in Europe.
Both teams will realy on their goalkeepers to try to stop the great scorers of the opposite team, especially Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah.
On Real's side is Keylor Navas, a Bible-believing Christian. The Costa Rican told Spanish newspaper ABC about his personal faith in Jesus Christ. We've translated some of his answers.
Question. How do you remember your childhood?
Answer. It was complicated, but at the same time very funny and happy. I remember it with joy, playing the typical games of that time with friends, like the spinning top or marbles. And football, of course.
I am very grateful to my family because they always fought to provide for me. All the complicated trials that I had as a child enabled me to have a strong mind, a fighting character.
That's why now I never give up. Everything that happened in my childhood has had a huge impact on my life now.
Q. Why did you become a football goalkeeper?
A. One day, when I was only five years old, I went to see my father playing. But before there was another game for children around ten years old. I will never forget how in that match one of the two goalkeepers stopped the goal with the other hand.
That image stuck in my head, and from that day I ask my father to go to a football school, because I wanted to be a goalkeeper. The action of the child was as if they had given me the seal of what I was going to be: football goalkeeper.
Q. Three summers ago, you spent the afternoon of August 31 in a room at the Madrid Barajas airport waiting for a plane to Manchester. You were going to sign your contract with the Manchester United team, which had sold De Gea to Real Madrid. But that fax arrived late, and today you are 90 minutes away from winning your third Champions League, like Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas. Fate is capricious, isn’t it?
A. God has a purpose for each person. I remember well that day. Before all the fuss started, I prayed with my wife and we told God that if he wanted me to leave, I would go, but if he wanted me to stay, I was happy to stay.
I also remember the day of my presentation with Real Madrid, walking in front of all the Champions. At that moment, I asked God to give me the opportunity to write my history in this club.
Things do not happen by chance. Here I am, writing history and winning titles.
Q. You are a committed believer, in the rigorous meaning of the expression. You even have a Bible group.
A. Yes. It is called 'Theos Place' (an evangelical group), and we aim that everybody could have a relationship with God, be closer to Him, read and understand the Bible, and pray.
We have a talk on Thursdays at 8.30 pm, lead by someone here or we just see a talk streamed from Costa Rica, where this group started.
We also have Bible studies on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. They are small groups of 8-10 people with a leader who has studied and knows the Bible quite well, and guides the students to understand it.
Q. How do the Bible, faith and your love for God help you in your life and in football?
A. I have to enjoy everything I have, because football is a blessing from God, but it does not have to be the most important thing in my life.
Since I accepted Christ in my heart, my main aim is to achieve eternal life and to be able to be with him. Christ helps me see things from a point of view where one begins to understand that there are things that should not affect us.
Christ gives me wisdom, a peaceful mind and a strong heart to fight in difficult moments, and to not go crazy, to keep my feet on the ground and be humble in moments of blessing and happiness.
It also helps me to think carefully about every decision of my life, to make sure if it edifies me. There are many children who follow me, and I want to give them an example, because otherwise I would feel bad.
Q. Are you stronger now than four years ago?
A. Everything that has happened to me in this club I see as beautiful trials, stones that I find on the way. And once I overcome them, I take them and build a bigger wall.
I do not see these trials as something that I have to avoid, but something that I have to face with work and health, giving results and enjoying with all the people who have believed in me.
Q. When you finish your football carreer, how would you like to be reminded?
A. As a good goalkeeper and sportsman, of course, because that is why we play football. But also as a person who had good principles, believed in God and was an example on and off the field.
I would like them to realise that a Costa Rican fought against everything and everyone, with faith and desire, and went ahead.
Since I arrived at Real Madrid my mentality was to write my own story, not to erase anyone's story. And here I am, working on it.
Read the full interview published by newspaper ABC (in Spanish).