By Ben Fergusson and Jonathan Pearce The 2017 World Cup was an exciting spectacle.
It was a grand occasion.
But the spectacle was also a nightmare.
And the nightmare was also that a very small number of Christians were prepared to pay the price of their faith.
In a video posted on the World Cup’s official YouTube channel, the faithful of the United States, the host country, celebrate the conclusion of the tournament by celebrating in a way that they might not have done for a while.
The US team, as you may have guessed, was very proud of its victory over Italy.
The victory was not a result of their best performance.
The team was not good enough.
They were not dominant enough.
But their performance at the World Championships was a reminder of what could be achieved in a country that, at its heart, was a Christian nation.
So why was there a small group of Christian athletes and people who were prepared, not just for the World Championship but for the entirety of the competition, to go to a place that was so far from home?
The answer is simple.
They believed that, with the United Nations having recently adopted the concept of the International Religious Freedom Charter (IRF), that it was a way to ensure that all nations are not persecuted, to ensure everyone has the right to express their faith, to see themselves represented in the game of football and to be seen in a positive light.
The idea that all countries should be treated with respect is one that has been championed by the Catholic Church.
It has been endorsed by the US bishops and by many other religious leaders and commentators.
The world, they believe, should be run by people who respect religious freedom and those who seek to bring it to light.
The idea of a team from the US team being able to visit a mosque in Istanbul or visit a Buddhist temple in India, they say, would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
The problem is that, in the eyes of some, that is not the case.
They say that these players should have been barred from participating in this tournament.
And they have the right.
The World Cup has not always been so accommodating to religious freedom.
Some of the most controversial issues have been the use of artificial turf and the use and sponsorship of football by some countries.
Some have been criticised for their treatment of women, with some reports alleging that women were routinely sexually harassed.
In the 1990s, the US banned women from wearing the hijab, a traditional head covering, because it was seen as a symbol of oppression.
The practice was banned by FIFA in 2005.
And in 2006, FIFA announced a “fair play” system which required all players to wear a head covering when they travelled abroad, and that the number of women players in the World Team had to be kept at a minimum.
As a result, women from some Muslim countries, including the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey, have complained that they were not allowed to play in the final.
They have also complained that the rules in these countries prevent them from representing their country in international tournaments.
In these and other countries, religious groups have had to fight for the right for these sports to be played in a neutral environment.
The issue was further complicated by the fact that many of these countries are predominantly Christian.
This year, the United Kingdom and Germany played in Qatar.
And, of course, the USA will play the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The real test will be the outcome of the World Football Confederation’s (WFC) next meeting in early June.
The WFC, an umbrella organisation of football’s major international federations, has set out a clear stance on religious freedom for the 2022 World Cup.
It is a clear endorsement of religious freedom, it states, and it recognises that all the major football federations will not take part in any sporting event that does not comply with the WFC’s rules and regulations.
There are some other issues too.
In the video, the devout American player, who would not be named, was able to see a sign that read “No Muslim, no Christians, no women”.
He was not the only person to be offended.
“It’s a symbol for the entire world that says, ‘We are against you’,” the American player said.
The Christian athlete had no hesitation in voicing his feelings.
“I mean, this is the very essence of our religion.
And we are a nation that is so proud of it,” he said.
“I mean this is how we feel, you know?
And if we can do it in a sport that we love, it’s like saying we love our country, you have a country, too.”
The religious leader who is not involved in the protest but who was also present at the game says that it is a small minority who have gone to such lengths.
“A small number have gone out of their way to take part, but I think they were very vocal in their criticism of the women’s participation,” the Christian leader