George Boateng, Darren Moore, Joseph-Desire Job and Carlo Nash

by
02 November 2006

George Boateng, Middlesbrough

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I DEFINITELY THINK that my faith in God affects the way I behave on the football pitch. It doesn’t make you perfect, but it makes a difference. Many people — other footballers, for example — think that because I believe in Christ, and I don’t believe in doing bad things to the opposition, I can’t tackle as tough as I do. Some people think I’m practising the opposite of what I preach. But I believe that you don’t forget about your religion on the pitch. I’m doing the best I can with the talent I have been given.

I never swear when I’m not playing, as I never get angry enough. But I swear during the game; I admit it, and it’s a sin. I think it is just emotion. In the heat of the moment, you lack the words to express yourself; so you swear. I don’t like using the f-word or taking the Lord’s name in vain; so every time I swear. I just carry on with the game, but every day I pray for forgiveness.

You might get angry on the pitch, but when you walk with Christ, you’re much less likely to really lose your cool. There was an incident two years ago, when Middlesbrough were playing Leeds, and I was caught up in some controversy. One of the Leeds players made some derogatory comments about my wife and I — I don’t want to repeat what he said — and I nearly lost my cool. I was so upset by what was said that I nearly completely lost it. But I realised that you can’t go too far, and I pulled back. My religious beliefs taught me that it was the right thing to do, and I thank God that I turned the other cheek.

Unlike most footballers, I have no superstitions. Players put on their left sock first, or carry a lucky charm or whatever, but I put all my trust in Jesus Christ. I believe that superstitions are a millstone, a sign of weakness. You limit yourself if you are superstitious, whereas God gives me strength.

I’ve gradually become a lot stronger through Jesus. My wife is also Christian. She used to go to a Dutch church, and I used to go to a Ghanaian church. The Ghanaian church ceremonies were like a big party. There’s music, and everyone sings. There are drums being played, and it’s a great atmosphere.

On Sundays, I’d drop my wife off and go to my church. Then we started going to a Dutch church together. We’ve become very devoted Christians. Hearing and acting on the Word is very important.

Darren Moore, West Bromwich Albion

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GOD has had a big influence on my career, ever since I joined Bradford in June 1997. There, I travelled to training each day with Wayne Jacobs, and the friendship we formed led to the start of my journey in faith. Wayne was a Christian, and I was inspired by his testimony. Everything about it seemed so right to me. Soon I invited God into my life.
 
Before I go on to the football pitch, I give thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to play. However, after the kick-off, I’m focused on the match, and my aim is to try to help my side to win. After the match, I just give God thanks for the opportunity of taking part and for keeping me free from injury. I’m grateful to him for that.

God has really given me confidence on the pitch. Before, I used to beat myself up under the pressures of the game. They are immense, and God has helped me to deal with them. I’ve got a certain peace now, and I’ve got someone to turn to. Now I know to not only give my best, but also to go out and enjoy myself.

In March 2003, I suffered a serious knee injury playing for West Bromwich Albion. My faith played a big part in helping me to come to terms with it, and although it was a terrible injury I had a peace and sense of joy through it all. My time in physiotherapy was a joyous period. I blessed God for being there for me to lean on.

Joseph-Desire Job, Middlesbrough

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I’VE BEEN a committed Muslim for many years now, and I feel that my faith really makes a difference to the way I behave, not only in my everyday life, but on the football pitch, too.

When you’ve got faith in God, you take things differently. When you’ve got faith, you don’t feel like you have any problems and it’s a nice feeling. You don’t feel the pressure that maybe other people do. You always feel that whatever happens on the football pitch, well, it is just a game, and there are far more important things going on in the world.

That doesn’t mean I’m not committed. I always run my legs off every match, and give everything I’ve got. But it helps me keep things in perspective. There are more important things than playing football, and my faith in God reminds me of that.

There are times when you get fouled and your instinct is to want revenge. In my last match for Cameroon against Sudan,  I was on the end of a nasty challenge. The player was sent off, it was that bad. But I kept control of my emotions, because my faith has taught me discipline.

That is one of the main things faith gives you: discipline. You follow the rules that your God gives you, and that makes you a disciplined person. Anyway, I set up the winner in the last minute of the match against Sudan; so maybe that was my reward from God.

The discipline I’ve learnt through religion means that I believe that I conduct myself better on the pitch. I don’t swear, because it’s the wrong thing to do, and it’s useless, too. I don’t argue with the referee. I treat everyone with respect, and you don’t always see that on the football pitch.

There is one incident which sticks in my mind, where my faith helped me cope, and that was the terrible day when my Cameroon team-mate Marc Vivien Foe dropped dead on the football pitch. That was really shocking. My first thoughts were with his wife and family, obviously. But then you start to deal with it. You have to remind yourself that death is part of your life, and everybody has to die one day.

Carlo Nash, Middlesbrough

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IT IS very easy for footballers to lose their heads during an important match, because the stakes are so high and we are all under a great deal of pressure to perform. That’s why I’d say that it’s very difficult for a player’s faith to play a big role in their conduct on the pitch.

Even the most devout Christians face a constant battle to do and say the right things in the heat of battle. It’s impossible to act in a perfect way all of the time, especially in footballing circles. The nature of the profession creates conflicts.

I find that being a Christian helps me to deal with disappointing moments in football a lot better. Like most professional sportsmen, I have had plenty of ups and downs during my career, and there has very rarely been a time when I was totally content with the way my job was going. My way of dealing with this is to pray to God about things that are on my mind and ask for guidance. I don’t always get the answers I’m looking for, but it’s a nice option to have. I use my faith as a reference for help when I need it most.

I do not swear at referees, or cheat on a pitch, but that’s not just because I believe in God. I am a naturally calm person, and it takes quite a lot to get me irate. I’ve had to bite my tongue sometimes because I’ve felt like swearing at a player or referee, but I normally manage to control it. I have always tried to play the game the right way. Goalkeepers can’t get criticised for diving like strikers do.



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