“All I know most surely about morality and obligation I owe to football”,
Eric Liddell (1902-45)
"I believe God made me for a purpose - for China - but when I run I feel his pleasure". Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire
If you are old enough, you might have seen the film, Chariots of Fire which tells the story of two British runners in the 1924 Olympics. According to the film, Eric Liddell, favourite for the 100 metres discovered on the trip to the Olympics in Paris that the 100 metres heats were on a Sunday and he decided not to run. He was hastily entered for the 400 metres and won gold, inspired by the verse 1 Samuel 2:30, "Those who honour me I will honour."
Almost, but not quite accurate. Eric did decide not to run the 100 because it was on a Sunday but he knew months before and had prepared for the 200 and 400, taking a bronze in the 200 and gold in a record time in the 400.
In the film Eric speaks the words,"I believe God made me for a purpose - for China - but when I run I feel his pleasure and to give it up would be to hold him in contempt. To win is to honour him". Of course, these words were written by the script writer not actually spoken by Eric. But they may well have reflected his attitude.
Eric was described at his memorial service as "the most godly man who ever lived." At the same time he was fiercely competitive. When fellow missionary, Kenneth McAll invited Eric, years after retirement, to go for a jog with him, Eric declined politely saying "when I run, I run to win. I will never jog, but I will go for a stroll". On an earlier occasion, a questioner at a church meeting asked him how he often managed to win races, that he looked like losing. The questioner might have expected a spiritual answer. Eric replied "I don't like to lose".
For Eric there was no dichotomy between being competitive and being a Christian. His attitude showed a holy competitiveness in which he felt at peace using his God-given sporting in worship of God. However, he never lost his desire to win.