Best Atheist Players of All Time

Tue 14 December 2021 | 10:00

We have seen many footballers who give glory to whatever they believe in with their amazing performance, but we have also seen players who believe in nothing but their own, and why today we are going to meet them; welcome to the best atheist players of all time.

And yet, soccer, and sports in general, is dominated by religious players, whether they're crossing him before entering the field of play, praying after a score, or pointing to the sky after a match.

Some of the finest footballing countries in the world are also some of the most religious: Brazil, Italy, Argentina, and Spain are all highly Catholic nations and have combined for 12 of the 21 World Cup titles.

Brazilian star Neymar is notably pious, donating frequently and wearing "100 percent Jesus" headbands or "I belong to Jesus" T-shirts along with several of his colleagues. Cristiano Ronaldo and

Lionel Messi

, too, are Catholic.

Many more players are Muslim, like Paul Pogba and Mesut Özil.

But what about those who do not believe? How many atheist footballers are there?

The reality is, it’s impossible to count, but in terms of openly atheist players, the number is minimal.

In the Czech Republic, roughly three-quarters of residents identify as non-religious. Belgium, Denmark,


, and the United Kingdom are all above 60 percent. While those statistics don't cover simply atheists, it gives you an indication of the absence of religion in many regions of Europe.

This maybe explains religion’s near prevalence in sports. The world’s finest athletes throughout the globe generally come from poorer socioeconomic origins – the same sorts of locations you’d expect to find larger levels of religious beliefs.

Top 5 of best atheist players of all time

In the five most famous atheist footballers article, we will first go over the meaning of atheism and then we will get to the list to avoid any kind of ambiguity and misunderstanding.

Sportmob does not discriminate on the basis of religion and we only aim to introduce the five most famous atheist footballers. It makes no difference to us whether players are Christian, Muslim, or have no religion at all. We all have our own ideas, and we feel it is critical for everyone to be allowed to do so without fear of persecution.

Now, without further ado let us hop into the article and meet the five most famous atheist footballers and learn more about

famous atheists footballers


What is atheism?

Atheism is defined as a lack of belief in the presence of gods in its widest definition. Atheism, in a broader sense, is the denial of the existence of any gods. In a more limited sense, atheism refers to the belief that there are no gods. Atheism is opposed to theism, which is the belief in the existence of at least one God in its broadest sense.

Nonbelievers say that atheism is a more frugal stance than theism and that everyone is born without a belief in gods. As a result, they argue that the burden of evidence is on the theist to offer an explanation for theism, not on the atheist to deny the existence of gods. Although some atheists have chosen secular ideologies (such as secular humanism), there is no universally accepted philosophy or rule of behavior among atheists.

Atheists are statistically viewed in low esteem all throughout the world. Non-atheists, and potentially even other atheists, seem to implicitly regard atheists as being prone to unethical conduct ranging from mass murder to failing to pay at a restaurant.

Furthermore, according to a Pew Research Center report from 2016, 15 percent of French people, 45 percent of Americans, and 99 percent of Indonesians feel that to be moral, one must believe in God.

In a recent survey in the United States, atheists and Muslims matched for the lowest rating on a "feeling thermometer" among the main religious populations.

Furthermore, a research of religious college students revealed that after pondering their mortality, they were more inclined to view and behave poorly with atheists, indicating that these sentiments may be the consequence of death fear.

Enough of the introduction of atheism let's get to the athletic side of the famous atheists footballers article.

Eunan O’Kane

Let’s meet our first candidate of famous atheists footballers.

Eunan Charles O'Kane is an Irish professional footballer who is presently a free agent after spending the previous season on loan with Championship team Luton Town from Leeds United.

O'Kane, the oldest child of Charlie and Lorraine O'Kane, grew up in Feeny, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Cora, his younger sister, is his only sibling. In his childhood, O'Kane played Gaelic football with Banagher GAC, and his father coached the Derry GAA hurling minors to their final Ulster championship triumph in 2001.

O'Kane attended St. Canice's Primary School and St. Patrick's College in Maghera for his secondary schooling.

At the age of ten, he joined Maiden City Soccer Academy, and by the age of twelve, he was being scouted by

Manchester City

and other teams. At the age of 16, O'Kane opted to give up Gaelic football in order to concentrate on his association football career.

He has also represented the Republic of Ireland at the international level. O'Kane is a midfielder who can also play as an aggressive midfield playmaker.

He was chosen as a standby for the Republic of Ireland's

Euro 2016

team, however, he was not included in the final 23-man roster.

O'Kane was entangled in a high-profile court dispute to have a humanist wedding ceremony recognized as a legitimate marriage ceremony after wishing to marry his girlfriend Laura Lacole in a humanist ceremony.

On June 20, 2017, O'Kane and his fiancée, Laura Lacole made history when they won their case in the Belfast High Court, Northern Ireland, via the Court of Appeal.

The couple's wedding on June 22, 2017, was the first legal humanist ceremony in Northern Ireland and the first in the United Kingdom outside of Scotland.

Matt Watson

The second of the

five most famous atheist footballers

is Matthew Watson.

Watson was born and raised in England, but he opted to study at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in the United States. In 2004 and 2005, he played two seasons for the UMBC Retrievers. Watson decided to become pro after the 2005 season, foregoing his final two seasons of university eligibility.

The midfielder joined the

Richmond Kickers

of the USL Second Division in 2006. He appeared in all twenty-four Kickers games that season, as the club won both the regular season and the playoffs. Watson and his colleagues won the regular-season championship again in 2007 but fell to the Harrisburg City Islanders in the USL-2 Championship final.

Watson was chosen to be the first team of the USL-2 All-Stars.

The Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) picked Watson third overall in the MISL Draft in April 2006. Watson scored ten goals in twenty-nine games for the Blast during the 2006–2007 season, although the team did not make the playoffs.

He fractured his toe in his second season, which kept him out for most of the season.

He did, however, earn his second professional title when the Blast won the 2007–2008 season. Jonny Steele, a player of the 2007 Carolina RailHawks, persuaded him to join the RailHawks when he was playing for the Blast. Watson was signed by the RailHawks on December 12, 2007, for the 2008 USL First Division season.

The 36-year-old joined Phoenix Rising of the United Soccer League in March, 2017.

Watson joined USL side Indy Eleven on February 8, 2018, after a season with Phoenix Rising.

This is an atheist athlete who claims to be such.

Brian Clough

Close competition for the top three and Brian was placed third on the

five most famous atheist footballers


Brian Howard Clough OBE was an English footballer and manager who was one of only four managers to win the English league with two separate teams. He started as a striker and is still one of the Football League's top goal scorers, but a devastating injury cut short his career.

Clough's name is linked to that of Peter Taylor, who worked as his assistant manager at a number of teams in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

With Derby County and Nottingham Forest, they had remarkable success. Clough was also known for giving numerous radio and television appearances in which he made contentious comments regarding players, other managers, and the condition of the game in general.

Clough was a lifelong socialist who often joined miners on picket lines, donated huge amounts to trade union activities, canvassed for his local MP, and served as the head of the Anti-Nazi League.

He was solicited by the Labour Party on two occasions to run for parliament in general elections, but he refused to do so in order to continue his management career in football.

Clough retorted to claims that he was a champagne socialist, saying, "Of course, I'm a socialist who drinks champagne. The only thing that separates me from a good Tory is that he retains his money while I share mine."

Brian Clough declares himself an atheist in his book from 1994. Clough claims he has no faith in God or the afterlife and this statement makes him eligible to be on the five most famous atheist footballers list. In September of 2004, he passed away.

Riccardo Montolivo

One more player on the five most famous atheist footballers before we get to meet the top player on the list.

Riccardo Montolivo is a former professional footballer from Italy who played in the midfield position. He is most known for his time with Fiorentina,

AC Milan

, and the Italian national team.

Montolivo started his career with Atalanta in 2003 before joining Fiorentina in 2005 as a dynamic and creative player. In the next seven years, he made over 250 appearances for the club.

He joined Milan on a free transfer in 2012 and, after the departure of Massimo Ambrosini, served as captain from 2013 to 2017, winning the Supercoppa Italiana in 2016. In the summer of 2019, he departed the club before retiring later that year.

Montolivo debuted for


against South Africa in 2007. Since then, he has participated in two FIFA Confederations Cups (2009 and 2013, earning a bronze medal in the latter edition of the tournament), as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012, the latter of which he started in the final. In addition, he competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Between 2007 and 2017, he earned 66 senior caps for Italy, scoring two goals.

Riccardo Montolivo has declared himself an atheist in public. This does not, however, imply that he is completely opposed to religion. Other team members who are religious and have different views than his are nonetheless respected by him. He and the other members of his team were even selected to meet with Pope Francis.

Now time to meet the last candidate of the five most famous atheist footballers list.

Johan Cruyff

Let us talk about the last and the best subject of our five most famous atheist footballers article much more than the previous ones.

We have already prepared

a full article on him

but now, we are going to talk about not his career and top facts but what he believes in. Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, sometimes known as Cruyff, was a Dutch professional football player and coach.

He won the Ballon d'Or three times as a player, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff is generally recognized as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, as well as one of the finest managers ever. He was a proponent of the football concept known as Total Football, which was pioneered by Rinus Michels.

Dutch football emerged from obscurity and semi-professional status in the late 1960s and early 1970s to become a powerhouse in the sport. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the 1974 FIFA World Cup final and was named the tournament's Golden Ball winner.

In the 1974 finals, he made a feint known as the "Cruyff Turn," which has since been frequently imitated in the contemporary game. Cruyff declined to compete in the 1978 World Cup after an abduction attempt on him and his family in their Barcelona home deterred him from playing football. 


began his professional career with Ajax, where he won eight Eredivisie championships, three European Cups, and one Intercontinental Cup during his time there. He went to Barcelona for a world record transfer price in 1973 and was voted European Footballer of the Year after helping the club win La Liga in his first season.

Cruyff became a very successful manager of Ajax and then Barcelona after retiring from playing in 1984; he remained an important adviser to both teams following their coaching tenures. Jordi, his son, was also a professional football player.

There aren't many atheist soccer players around, but Johan Cruyff is one among them. Cruyff isn't praising God for all the hard effort he invests in every game when it comes to winning the next one. He isn't praying like the other players.

"I don't believe in God... I don't believe in prayer,"

Cruyff has remarked

about God and prayer.

Before a game in Spain, all 22 players make the sign of the cross. Every game would result in a tie if it worked." Cruyff clearly believes that the athlete creates their own "luck," if you will.

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