< Poetry < Interesting Articles < Inspiring Stories < Stories from Reverts | Prayer Timetables > What is Islam > Salat > Ramadan > Hajj >  Qur'an >

Monday, 1 October 2007

I pray five times a day, the boys call me beardo...I'll live with it

I pray five times a day, the boys call me beardo...I'll live with it

Taken from The Daily Mail, England, 28th September 2007

Nathan Ellington wore a T-shirt to training last week. It bore the message: 'I'm Muslim, don't panic.'

Watford's £3.25million striker will not wear it for the cameras, much to our photographer's disappointment. It was his little joke, but he worries that to be pictured wearing it in a national newspaper might cause unintended offence.

Twenty years ago, the idea of a Muslim footballer would almost have been fanciful. But in the modern game, the potpourri of nationalities drawn to these shores means it is not only inevitable, but the trend is growing.

In the Premier League, Mo Sissoko, Hameur Bouazza, Diomansy Kamara and Nicolas Anelka all follow Islam, as does, rumour has it, Robin van Persie.

Ellington was a "non-practising Christian" until two major influences on his life reshaped his views three years ago. His brother Jason adopted the faith. And then Ellington met his future wife, Alma.

"I'm a practising Muslim," he said. "And I told the manager Aidy Boothroyd that before I signed. I had a few moments with him to explain what I have to do. I explained that because it's seen as being different. He didn't have a problem with it. If he had, I don't know what I'd have done.

"It hasn't caused me any problems so far, because you are encouraged to rest. I pray five times a day. Before dawn, in the afternoon, mid-afternoon, sunset and then before I go to bed. So I can fit it in around training. If I had to train all day, I'd ask for five minutes to myself.

"I've got a prayer mat. The manager wouldn't have a problem with that, either. He'd respect the fact it was something I needed to do. The boys have a joke about it. I suppose frailties or abnormalities is the the worst I've been called is 'Beardo'. I can live with that."

If anyone had made that jibe at Micky Droy, Chelsea's hirsute hardman of the 1970s, they would probably have been on the end of a right-hander.

These days, in the dressing room, picking on perceived norm. If you can take it, then you are accepted.

At one club, a player was nicknamed 'Bomber' just because he was a Muslim.

Ellington said: "Some people would think that was funny, but it's not funny to joke about that.

There are bigger issues out there. People lost their lives, loved ones. There's a line to be drawn.

"Anyway, it's not the religion, it's the people. The religion itself doesn't teach you anything bad. Islam encourages you to find fault with it. It wants you to investigate it, but I haven't found any faults yet. It does not teach you to be a bad person.

"You know, there is evil in other religions. Christianity, for example. It's not the religion that is bad. It's the people. That's what you've got to understand.

"Perhaps there is a lack of knowledge out there. I don't know how much some of the other lads know. If they wanted to talk to me about it, I'd be happy to share it with them. They've just got to ask."

Boothroyd is a progressive manager who wants his players on the right diet, but Ellington is observing Ramadan. He is not supposed to eat or drink in daylight hours. Surely that has brought conflict?

"Not really, because after sunset you can eat and drink as much as you want," he said. "You have to get the nutrients back into you then.

"You can get up before sunrise and make sure you have enough food inside you. I was up today at 5am to pray — and I ate early. On match days, if I'm travelling, there are provisions to eat and make up for it afterwards.

"Honestly, it hasn't affected my football. I've not encountered any prejudice through my religion. I've not suffered racist abuse, but I've had team-mates who have."

Ellington has made just two League starts since his August transfer and is yet to score for Watford, but he is just relieved to have put a summer of uncertainty behind him.

"It was very frustrating at West Bromwich," he said. "I was annoyed because I thought I was leaving in the window. The chairman said I could, then said I couldn't.

"I played under two managers who didn't really rate me. I understand now that it's the manager who makes you or breaks you. The gaffer here wants me to do well.

"It's about preparing for the future. Not just this league. If, no, when we get back to the Premier League, it's about doing much better next time around."

No comments: