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From xpLosION to reLigION: UoB’s American Football team have set up a faith group

Accepting players for who they are on and off the field

The University of Birmingham American Football team the 'Birmingham Lions' have formed their own faith group as a safe space to discuss their religious views and how it effects their life on and off the field.

Named after their team, the 'Kingdom of Lions' group meet once a week on a Thursday before training to discuss how they can lead their lives to help others discover God.

The Tab Birmingham spoke to 3rd year players, Ben Thomas and Irebomi Olukoya who are the two founders of the group. Struggling to find the right balance between American Football and putting their faith first, the boys knew they would have to take a step back from the team or find a way to bring their faith into the team.

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Ben told us that the whole team are in support of the group and teammates have been reaching out to them to talk and get involved with the discussions. The boys understand that God isn't for everyone and even if their teammates can go away feeling more like themselves than before the discussion then that's "the best they could hope for".

The Birmingham Lions head coach has been supportive throughout, initially being the one to suggest that Ben and Irebomi come in and speak to the rest of the team about their faith and why they are putting their beliefs first to make themselves better players. This is where the idea sparked from and both agreed that a faith group would be the best way to bring their faith into their Lions family.

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"God builds us up so we can build others up" – Irebomi Olukoya

It is a christian group, however they welcome people of all religions to aid discussion. Even boys on the team who follow the Islamic religion have said that the faith group has encouraged them to follow their own religion more closely and embrace their beliefs both when playing and within their daily lives.

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Irebomi told the Tab that it is "refreshing to see my faith has a space on campus". Both believe that being in touch with their religion has allowed them to understand that they are playing American Football because they love the sport, not just in an aim to win and be the best.

Ben and Irebomi spoke with inspirational passion and dedication and the Birmingham Tab hope that the Kingdom of Lions inspires more sports teams to embrace their teammates decisions and beliefs.

All images are from the Birmingham Lions facebook page