Soccer News of Sunday, 31 January 2016
Jack Roberts spoke with HJK Helsinki star, Gideon Baah about what it’s like to be a Christian and a professional footballer.
Growing up, what was it like playing your football in Ghana?
“It was fun. Football was only the sport you could think of and see on the streets. Playing in Ghana made you feel the essence and the importance of the sport because loads of people came out to watch and play in the streets. It was a big opportunity as big crowds of people watched and to me it was fun.”
If you weren’t a professional footballer, what would you be doing?
“I think I would be rolling in as a business marketer, partly because that’s what I studied in school, and of course if I wasn’t a professional footballer that would be the second option!”
Was it a tough decision to leave Ghana and go and play in Finland?
“Yeah it was tough. It was really, really tough. Tougher then I thought. Coming over here, I was thinking I made the right decision because I played my football in Ghana and I wanted to experience some European football and I was thinking it was unfortunate to start in Finland but it’s not so bad as I thought and I think I’ve made my name here and I would love to go a step further in my career. Maybe time will tell.”
How are you enjoying life at HJK Helsinki?
“It’s ok. Apart from the cold of course! The football is great as well because it’s the biggest club in Finland. I’m really privileged to play here and I think it’s a really good step because it’s the most watched club here in Finland and it’s great to be part of that.”
In your eyes, what’s the best thing about being a pro footballer and why?
“In my eyes, I think the best thing about being a pro footballer is the recognition and before it comes with the money, but to me I think it’s the recognition. You know as kids playing in the streets, we wanted to be pro footballers badly and apart from the money it’s definitely the recognition.”
Who would you say is the best player you have played against?
“Um, quite a few. Quite a few! Amauri who plays for Torino. Italian side. He was quite a big lad, 6ft 3, 6ft 4! He had lots and lots of experience and I was very happy to play against him. I also think Fabio Quagliarella who played in the 2010 World Cup. We managed to win the first leg and that was awesome and one of the happiest moments of HJK.”
You’ve just recently played for your National side, how proud were you to represent Ghana?
“Very, very proud. Every player in Ghana wish to play for the Black stars, because it has loads and loads of history and pride. To put on the national jersey is unthinkable. I think this was one of my highlights of 2015. It was just awesome and I was so proud. It was just a single game but I was so, so proud.”
Gideon, can you tell us how you became a Christian and what’s your story?
“I was born and raised in a Christian family, so I knew how to talk and associate with people. I used to wake up with my family and do morning devotion. I basically think it was my family for the faith.”
What has God taught you about yourself since becoming a professional footballer?
“God has taught me a lot. I have one miraculous testimony to give of my career because in 2009 I suffered a leg break and broke my left foot, that’s my playing foot! Both broken beyond imagination. They are both now fine and up to now this is the biggest thing God has done for me. I think the doctors were saying the only thing I could do is just walk on it, but now I believe in testimony because I can not just walk on it, I can run and play football. I think it’s big news because even if I don’t make it right to the top, God has done an awesome thing for me. I was always telling myself in my sick bed that I was just hoping and praying that I could walk and then it got to a time where I could walk, jump, and now I’m still playing. It feels like yesterday.
God has taught me a lot about preservation, the way God has preserved my life, all of my steps in this faith, I’ve done so many things from nowhere . Many people know me now, especially in Ghana and gradually it’s getting more wide. You always have to contemplate as a Christian because God has lots and lots of things planned for our lives. It always depends on time and as a Christian I believe God’s time is the best.”
Have you had chats about God with any of your team mates?
“Of course I do it so many times. Maybe in the club they see me with my Bible, maybe they see me based on prayers, they call it rituals before the game! I’ve been talking to some people about Christ, but once in a while because European football is not so keen, but back in Ghana we do lots, it’s a Christian country, we pray before and after games but in Europe it’s not the same, it’s just do your thing. I’m a Christian and I’m proud of that.”
How do you balance church life with the hectic football schedule?
“In Europe it’s so difficult for me. I don’t belong to a church here. There’s so many local churches here on a Sunday, but most of our games are on a Sunday. It’s so hard. However, anytime I have a chance to go to Ghana, I don’t miss a day of church. Everyday, because that’s the only time I can have fellowship with people and fellowship in your comfort zone. It is difficult here. It’s hectic. However, it doesn’t take away your faith. I just don’t get the fellowship with God, but the faith is still there. Still strong. It’s a challenge.”
What advice would you give to young Christian footballers starting out in their careers?
“I think you need to think about God first. It says in the Bible: ” But seek first his kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). If you’re a footballer or a sportsman you have to think about God first and everything your heart desires you can get it. If you put God second, I think you’ll be losing out on so many aspects of your life. Put God in everything you do. That’s a gateway to the top.”
Finally, what’s it like knowing God has plans for you in the future and you can totally rely on him?
“Yeah he’s done a lot for me. For me what he’s done is enough. That’s for me in the future, and the future for me is a bonus. I think God’s plan for me in the future looks bright and I think by following steps, praying and hard work everything will be. It’s not about what you can see, it’s about what God can do for you. If you have money and wealth and everything you don’t have Christ in you. It’s nothing. It’s basically empty. I’d prefer to have God then nothing.”