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Notable footballers that converted to Islam

Happy Eid-El-Kabir to all Muslim faithfuls around the world.

Football is one of the sports in the world that is based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities, representing players from all nationalities and with different religious background. Many Muslim football players have been contributing to football over a long history. Their spectacular performance dazzle their fans.

Since the players’ personal beliefs have no effect on how they play football, fans should never discriminate players based on their religious beliefs.

However, Muslim footballers usually face anti-Muslim abuse from fans and sometimes even from other players or coaches. However, most of the time common sense prevails, as with many clubs, like Newcastle United, building multi-faith prayer rooms at their training grounds to facilitate Muslim football players.

Muslim players come from different countries and even different continents around the world. Some are of French or Algerian descent and some are of Turkish descent, like many German players whose parents or grandparents immigrated to Central Europe after World War II

On this day we bring you some footballers that converted to Islam

1. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry is widely considered to be the greatest player in the illustrious history of Arsenal and it cannot be argued that he was one of the best strikers of his generation.

With the North London Club, he won a plethora of individual and team awards including the FA Cup, Premier League, and Golden Boots but the one thing that eluded him was a Champions League which he finally won at Barcelona as part of a record-breaking sextuple.

On the international scene, Henry was also well established with the French national team and he is his country’s record goalscorer with 51 goals from 123 appearances while he also won the World Cup, European Championship, and Confederations Cup.

During an interview with a Qatari-based station, the former Juventus man stated that he had embraced Islam and that his teammates Abidal and Ribery played a role in his conversion, describing Islam as the religion which he was closest to.

2. Franck Ribery (Fiorentina, Italy)

Franck Henry Pierre Ribéry, born 7 April 1983, is a French professional footballer who plays for Serie A club Fiorentina.

When he was two years old, he and his family were involved in a car accident in his hometown, colliding with a lorry.

Ribéry suffered serious facial injuries that resulted in more than one hundred stitches and which left two long scars down the right side of his face, and another across his brows.

Before starting his football career, Ribéry worked as a construction worker with his father. He always refers to those years as a "learning experience."

As one of the greatest wingers of all time, Ribery converted to Islam in 2002 after being inspired by his wife Wahiba who is of Algerian descent. So, he is among those footballers who have converted to Islam. He also added the name Bilal after his conversion.

Speaking about his conversion from Christianity to Islam, Ribery said:

"Religion is my personal thing. I am a believer and since I converted to Islam, I think, I became stronger, I became mentally and physically stronger. Religion did not change my personality or my perception of the world. I pray five times a day, I do it because it enables me to be released and I feel better afterwards"

The Frenchman is a staunch follower of Islam and was even reportedly extremely angry with Boateng for dousing him in beer after winning the Bundesliga in 2013

3. Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka emerged as a prodigiously talented player and was voted as the PFA Young Player of the Year with Arsenal in 1998. Big things were expected of him at Highbury but he controversially decided on a big-money move to Real Madrid in 1999 and that was the start of the downfall in his career.

He became something of a journeyman from then on, representing clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City, PSG, Fenerbache, Liverpool, and Chelsea and never quite hit the heights expected although he did win a Golden Boot and Premier League title with the Blues.

Anelka was a highly controversial player during his career and converted to Islam in 2004, stating of the decision: I was sixteen when I converted to Islam, beyond the fraternal aspect, my conversion did not change my life. I was already living by the same principles — being righteous, having values. I used to fast during Ramadan because I admired the people fasting around me. What made me convert was that I had that certainty that Islam was for me. I felt this relationship with God, and that enlightened my life. I had that conviction in my heart that that was my religion. I am pleased to be a Muslim, a religion of peace and I learned a lot from Islam”.

Expectedly, he changed his name upon his conversion and his adopted Muslim name is Abdul-Salam Bilal.

4. Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor is a retired Togolese international who was born in Lome to parents of Nigerian origin and to date, he is the record goalscorer for the Togo national team with 32 goals.

According to him, he grew up idolizing former Nigerian international Nwankwo Kanu and like his mentor, he went on to represent Arsenal with distinction and his performances with the Gunners led to him being named the 2008 CAF African Player of the Year.

Adebayor also represented other clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, and Manchester City and reportedly converted to Islam while representing Turkish club İstanbul Başakşehir, although it is unknown if he reverted to Christianity after leaving the Super Lig side.

5. Eric Abidal

Abidal, currently the Director of Football at Barcelona, was one of the standout left-backs in the world and represented several top clubs in his professional career, with his most productive spells coming with Barcelona and Lyon where he won 18 titles with both teams combined including two Champions League trophies with the Blaugrana.

He was also established with the French national team, making 67 appearances for Les Bleus from 2004 to 2013 before a diagnosis of Liver tumor in 2011 derailed his career and ultimately led to his early retirement.

He successfully completed the transplant needed for his full recovery, with his cousin acting as his donor and he later revealed that his friend and teammate Dani Alves offered to donate part of his liver, an offer that was refused as it would have affected the Brazilian later in his career.

Like his international teammate Franck Ribery, Abidal also converted to Islam due to marriage, with his wife Hayet Kebir (who is also of Algerian origin) prompting his conversion and he adopted the name Bilal upon his conversion to Islam.

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Algerian Central Europe Islam Thierry Henry Turkish


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