My journey with Christ started at a very young age. My parents really wanted to instill that belief inside of me. We would always go to church – that was very important. Because of that, I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was a point when I started following Christ. I think the desire to know and follow Christ was always in me and I made sure that I stayed on that path.
My personal life, my faith life and my sport life – they all come together. I think they have to. You don’t have one without the others, and you have to have Jesus in your life. That is how I get through my personal life, how I get through my professional life – following Christ. He helps me through the tough times. It hasn’t always been a rosy road to success, and there are always going to be bumps along the way. Jesus helped me through all of those struggles.
I think as a younger man in my early 20’s, I would sit down and say, “Thank you God,” when things were going well. But when you get older you realize that there is a bigger picture than doing well on the football (soccer) field. It’s about life. It’s about following Christ. So when things are going well – great – I give praise to Him; and when things are not going well, I ask for His guidance and His help to keep me going in the right path.
I think we all need Christ in our lives. Money, fame, all those objects, they don’t mean anything if you don’t have Jesus in your life. All of those things can be gone in the blink of an eye. We can’t get caught up in it. As professional footballers we are very privileged to do what we do and to be role models.
Being a Christian and being an athlete, and being aggressive, that is totally acceptable. It’s not just about being that kind-hearted person. There’s nothing wrong with going on the field and being competitive and wanting to do well, if I’m doing it in the right way and the right manner – not cheating or trying to hurt someone deliberately.
As athletes, everyone gets caught in the heat of the moment. You sometimes do things that you regret later on. I am no different. I am not perfect. I make mistakes and look back and ask for forgiveness.
As I prepare for games, it’s not so much about praying to win. It’s praying that everyone stays healthy, that we perform to our best ability, and that we stay focused and don’t forget why we are doing this. I am playing in Christ’s name, so I can’t get too caught up in asking Jesus for a win or to score a goal or to save this and do that. I have to accept the game as it comes.
Our group of national team brothers comes together to pray, to speak about the Bible and Jesus Christ, to help each other through His plan for all of us. It is unique and most of all, it is awesome. We’re able to come together from all over the world at different parts of our careers, at different ages, with one common goal of talking about Jesus Christ and representing Him on the national team. I think that our little group of players has slowly gotten bigger. As we bring more players into the national team, more guys are joining our discussions about Jesus, the Bible and what it means to be a follower.
Being a follower of Jesus Christ is an ongoing process. I have to work at it; it’s not easy. I become stronger as an individual and as a follower of Christ through difficult times. Ultimately, I have to be able to open myself to God and follow His plan for my life. And if I do that and experience the forgiveness, the relief comes off my shoulders. Knowing that I have God’s love, I’m able to follow Him through my life’s journey.