China’s star soccer striker, Han Duan, will be featured in thousands of copies of the Gospel of Mark produced to coincide as a resource for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The United Bible Societies China Partnership has been supporting the Provincial Christian Councils to provide 150,000 copies of Mark’s Gospel. The scriptures, which have been produced to encourage people to engage in the message of Jesus Christ, will feature Duan’s personal testimony.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament kicked off in Shanghai on Monday with 336 players from 16 national teams competing for the World Cup in five cities around China.
The U.S. team, ranked No. 1 in the FIFA rankings, is favored to win its third World Cup despite being drawn in a rugged Group B with North Korea, Sweden and Nigeria. The first game for the United States in the tournament is a politically charged game against North Korea on Tuesday in the central city of Chengdu.
In addition to Germany and the United States, many other teams look like threats including Sweden, North Korea, China, England, Norway and Brazil.
China, which hosted the inaugural tournament in 1991, is expected to get a boost from "strong fan support," said Lily Xue, executive general secretary of the organizing committee, according to The Associated Press.
And 23-year-old Han, who has scored ten goals in her last four appearances for China, has been named by FIFA.com as the “player to watch out for.”
With soccer being “enormously popular in China,” Ian McKay, Bible Society’s international program director, said the organization hopes many soccer fans will be encouraged by Han to explore the Bible for themselves.
“Han’s testimony is a wonderfully positive story,” he said.
In her testimony, Han says: “No matter where I go, I take the Bible along.”
“I love to read it because there are important lessons to be learnt each day,” she adds. “I also find that the Bible is filled with wisdom and joy, instructing me on how to live meaningfully.”
The last FIFA Women’s World Cup drew 660,000 spectators in United States in 1999 and nearly one billion viewers from seventy countries. As the Women's World Cup continues to grow in popularity, FIFA estimates that there are currently forty million girls and women playing football around the world, and the number of women will equal the number of men by 2010.
Daniel Blake in London contributed to this report.