The Significance of Religious Practices in Sport: The Case of Religion and Football in Zambia

  • Judith Lubasi Ilubala-Ziwa The University of Zambia
  • Joseph Hachintu The University of Zambia
Keywords: Sports, religion, practice, beliefs, rituals, tolerance, Christian nation, worship


Sporting is an important activity in the lives of many youths in Zambia. It is common that people rarely think of religion when talking about sports. Without contradiction, Zambia is also a Christian nation, with the majority of the citizens practising Christianity. The religiosity of youths involved in sports is visible off and on the field as some of them may be seen engaging in religious acts or devotions. Worship, prayer, fellowship, ceremonies and rituals are practised during sporting events; all are expressions of religion. At the same time, some pundits may argue that sports and religion are contradictory. Ordinarily, sports as fun, competitive, intense, and in some instances violent in nature, cannot be thought to have anything close to religion, which in contrast is often viewed as sombre, reverent, and sacred in nature. This study, therefore, sought to take a paradigm shift from studying sport as a discipline in its own right to relating it to religion. Using phenomenology design, the study adopted qualitative methods to establish the reasons for youth involvement in sport. It also analysed the views of stakeholders, among them youths, on whether religion had any effect on the performance and behaviour of participants, especially in Zambia a country declared a Christian nation. Finally, the study sought to examine how sport could be used as a mitigation measure to curb the vices, including religious intolerance, faced by the youths in Zambia and other countries in Africa and beyond.