Theologising the Discourse of Representation through ‘Faith’ and Religion in Football News

Nadhratunnaim Abas, Surinderpal Kaur


The paper examines the use of ‘faith’ in football through the analysis of the patterns of its co-occurrences in the corpus of football news articles in The Star, a local Malaysian English language newspaper. These articles have been produced by the local news authors who claim to be the faithful of particular football teams. The use of ‘faith’ has been found to express and call for the allegiance towards the preferred teams which is addressed to the audience in general. In this sense, the overdetermined role of the authors as the news producers and the supporters of certain football teams may contribute to how they are represented in the media.  Moreover, ‘faith’ has often been limited to religion and little is known about its use in sport and representation. Hencethe investigation is aimed at making sense of the meanings of ‘faith’ in the context of football to further unveil its role in the discourse of representation. The results reveal the co-occurrences of ‘faith’ with the vocabulary of religion simulating interdiscursive relations that strategise on theologising the representation of the news participants in attempts to legitimise the allegiance to particular sides in football naturally. Consequently, using faith of religion to call for faith in football may lead to the glorification and derogation of certain football teams that further influence their representation as ‘Us’ or ‘Them’. As this practice may also be accepted as a common practice indicating sports rivalry, it also makes ‘faith’ a naturalised code without appearing to be ideological.


Keywords: faith; theologisation; representation; news discourse; interdiscursivity

Full Text:



Abraham, J. & Rufaedah, A. (2014). “Theologization” of psychology and “psychologization” of religion: How do psychology and religion supposedly contribute to prevent and overcome social conflicts?. Procedia environmental sciences, 20, 516-525.

Alston, W. P. (2019). Divine Nature and Human Language: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Cornell University Press.

Bain-Selbo, E. (2019). Sport and social change: The prophetic dimension. In T. Shoemaker (Ed.), The Prophetic Dimension of Sport. (pp. 7-14). Springer.

Baker, P. (2006). Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Baker, P., Gabrielatos, C., KhosraviNik, M., Krzyżanowski, M., McEnery, T. & Wodak, R. (2008). A useful methodological synergy? Combining Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK Press. Discourse and Society. 19(3), 273 – 306. DOI: 10.1177/0957926508088962

Baker, P. (2013). Will Ms ever be as frequent as Mr? A corpus-based comparison of gendered terms across four diachronic corpora of British English. Gender and Language, 1(1), 126 – 149.

Bourrat, P., Atkinson, Q. D. & Dunbar, R. I. (2011). Supernatural Punishment and Individual Social Compliance Across Cultures. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from

Burke, K. (1969). A Rhetoric of Motives. 111. California: University of California Press.

Campbell, J. (2018). English language and an inclusive Malaysia. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 24(3), 206 – 219.

Coakley, J. (2007). Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies. (9th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Cox, D., Navarro-Rivera, J. & Jones, R. P. (2014). Half of American Fans See Supernatural Forces at Play in Sports. Retrieved

April 20, 2018 from

Delaney, T. & Madigan, T. (2015). The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. North Carolina: McFarland.

Delaney, T. & Madigan, T. (2009). Sports: Why People Love Them!. Maryland: University Press of America.

Durkheim, E. (1915). The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Fairclough, N. (2001). Language and Power. (2nd ed.). England: Pearson Education Limited.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge.

Graham, J., & Haidt, J. (2010). Beyond beliefs: Religions bind individuals into moral communities. Personality and Social Psychology Review. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from

Hoffman, S.J. (Ed.). (1992). Sport and Religion. Illinois: Human Kinetics Books.

Izutsu, T. (2012). Language and Magic: Studies in the Magical Function of Speech. Kuala Lumpur: The Other Press.

Kenny, A. (1992). What is Faith? Essays in the Philosophy of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kurzban, R. & Christner, J. (2011). Are Supernatural Beliefs Commitment Devices for Intergroup Conflict?. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from

Mautner, G. (2008). Analyzing newspapers, magazines and other print media. In R. Wodak & M. Krzyżanowski, (Eds.) Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the social science. NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

McEnery, T. & Hardie, A. (2012). Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Midas (n. d). Retrieved April 7, 2017 from

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: International Student’s Edition. (2015). (9th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nazarudin, M. N., Yusof, B., Wahab, S. A. & Razak, M. R. A. (2014). Malaysian ethnic groups and the culture of football fans attendance during EPL clubs friendly matches in Malaysia. Jurnal Pemikir Pendidikan, 5.

Nordin, H. (2008). The use of conceptual metaphors by Swedish and German football commentators – A comparison. In E.

Lavric, G. Pisek, A. Skinner & W. Stadler (Eds.), The Linguistics of Football. (pp. 113-120). Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen.

Pernot, L. (2006). The rhetoric of religion. Rhetorica, XXIV(3), 235–254. Retrieved from

Peters, T. (2019). Science and Theology: The New Consonance. Routledge.

Prebish, C. S. (1993). Religion and Sport: the Meeting of Sacred and Profane. Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Richard, A. (2008). Televised football commentaries: Descriptions, narrations and representations of a non-victory. In E. Lavric, G. Pisek, A. Skinner & W. Stadler (Eds.), The Linguistics of Football. (pp. 193-202). Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen.

Shamsuddin, K. & Kamaruddin, F. (2008) “Canaries versus Roaring Lions”: Language and football in Malaysian newspaper reporting. In E. Lavric, G. Pisek, A. Skinner & W. Stadler (Eds.), The Linguistics of Football. (pp. 171-178). Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen.

Stapleton, K., Evans, S. L. & Rhys, C. S. (2019). Ana as God: Religion, interdiscursivity and identity on pro-ana websites. Discourse & Communication, 13(3), 320-341.

Swanson, G. (2001). The birth of Gods. In M. Hamilton, The Sociology of Religion. (2nd ed.). NY: Routledge.

Tan, K. H., Abdollahi-Guilani, M. & Rusly, F. N. A. (2017). Negativity as criteria for newsworthiness in Malaysian newspaper sports corpus. Jurnal Komunikasi: Malaysian Journal of Communication, 33(2).

Wann, D. L., Melnick, M. J., Russell, G. W. & Pease, D. G. (2001). Sport Fans: the Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators. NY: Routledge.

Weber, M. (1993). The Sociology of Religion. Boston: Beacon Press.

Wu, J. (2011). Understanding interdiscursivity: A Pragmatic model. Journal of Cambridge Studies, 6(2-3), 95-115. Retrieved from

Yusof, A., See, L. H. & Yusof, A. (2008). Spectator perceptions of physical facility and team quality: A study of a Malaysian super league soccer match. Research Journal of International Studies, 8(2), 132-140.

Zipes, J. (2011). The meaning of fairy tale within the evolution of culture. Marvels & Tales, 25(2), 221-243. Retrieved April 7, 2017 from http://muse.



  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157