“My life has a bigger purpose than soccer” says Marcos Senna
Seasoned midfielder Marcos Senna proved he still has what it takes after leading New York's Cosmos to victory, scoring the championship-winning goal against Atlanta in the North American Soccer League's Soccer Bowl late last year.
The 38-year-old Brazilian-born player was named to the National American Soccer League 2013 Best XI team after making a move from his long career in Spanish Primera División club Villerreal.
Many commentators believed Marcos was a key player in Spain's successful UEFA EURO 2008 campaign and he was recognized as player of the tournament.
Marcos began his career in 1997, playing in Brazillian clubs for several years, before making an unanticipated move in 2002 to Villarreal.
"I did not plan to go to Spain," Marcos admits. "I think that it was God's will. As a child, as I started playing football, I was thinking of playing in a top club and then on the Brazil national team. But my life has changed a lot.
"I came to play in Spain and played well for Villarreal, and then Luis Aragonés [Spanish coach] invited me to play for the Spanish national team [in 2006, the same year he gained citizenship]. That changed my life completely."
The bright lights of football success were now on Marcos, but a light that outshone everything else had begun burning in his heart four years earlier when he committed his life to Jesus Christ during his time at Brazillian club São Caetano.
Marcos remembers he was nearly 26-years-old when the São Caetano team invited him to a Bible study meeting that changed his life.
"I liked it, so I kept on going. At that stage I did not know much about the Bible.
"I had been to church with my mother but as I grew up I stopped going for some reason," he explains.
"Then eight months later I became a Christian, Villarreal signed me, and I joined a church in Villarreal where I was baptized."
Marcos decided to believe Jesus Christ, God the Son, took the penalty for his wrongdoing against God, and he surrendered control of his life to Jesus.
"The difference that Jesus makes in my life is everything. Quite simply, He makes all the difference. I understand that God has a purpose in my life and He will keep looking after me. And for that reason I am very calm."
Having God's perspective on life helps Marcos as a player too.
"Winning means joy and happiness. Losing is sadness. But we are human – even as Christians we often become sad – which is normal. But we are prepared...and with God in our lives I am sure that we have the strength to cope with defeat calmly."
Many players find injury the most frustrating obstacle, but trusting in Jesus has delivered Marcos from this anxiety.
"If I am injured, it is for a reason that I am injured and I understand that I will get better in time. I understand that God has a purpose in my life and He will keep looking after me. And for that reason I am very calm.
"I have been through two operations on each knee. I don't know another player who has had four knee injuries who has been able to carry on playing at the level I am playing. I give thanks, honor and glory to God for having strengthened me through it."
Though some believe money and fame is the answer, Marcos has experienced both, and affirms that a relationship with God is the only way to true peace and joy.
"If you are worried about anything, I do not think that money is the answer," Marcos says.
"God can give you happiness, peace and joy. [To become a Christian] is the best decision that anyone can make in their lives."
Surely the most compelling reason for Marcos' being at peace is this: "When I die I will go to be with Jesus in heaven, in the place He has prepared for us."