Rabat - Togolese football star, Emmanuel Adebayor, converted to Islam over the weekend, making headlines worldwide. His conversion brings to mind dozens of famous football players who have converted to Islam from a different religion or from no religion.
Rabat – Togolese football star, Emmanuel Adebayor, converted to Islam over the weekend, making headlines worldwide. His conversion brings to mind dozens of famous football players who have converted to Islam from a different religion or from no religion.
The list of famous football players around the globe who have decided to convert to Islam during the early or later years of their lives is long. Here are some of the most interesting.
Franck Ribery and Eric Abidal
French internationals players Franck Ribery and Eric Abidal are the “poster children” of famous Muslim converts among football players.
In 2002, Bayern Munich’s midfielder Franck Ribery took the Shahada (the declaration of faith affirming the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as His prophet) and changed his name to Bilal.
Ribery said in statement that his wife Wahiba Belhami, who is of Algerian origin, was the main reason behind his conversion.
Another woman of Algerian origin was also behind FC Barcelona former defender Eric Abidal’s conversion from Catholicism to Islam.
Born in Lyon, France, on September 11, 1979 to immigrant parents from Africa, Eric Abidal embraced Islam and changed his name to Bilal Eric Abidal so he could marry the Algerian-born Hayet Abidal.
Unlike his fellow French national team member Franck Ribery, whose conversion to Islam was public and who always prays before matches, France’s Nicolas Anelka kept his religious beliefs private, and in fact hid his conversion from the public for years.
Anelka, the former striker of some of the biggest clubs in Europe such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool, was sixteen when he converted to Islam. But he only announced his conversion in 2004 in UAE, and adopted the name Abdul-Salam Bilal.
Thierry Henry and Van Persie
While Franck Ribery and Eric Abidal are well known for being Muslim converts, many fans may be unfamiliar with other football players who converted to Islam, such as Thierry Henry and Robin Van Persie.
French football player and Arsenal’s legend striker, Thierry Henry, announced his conversion to Islam in December 2008 on the former Aljazeera Sports Channel, now beIN sports.
Henry told the Qatar-based channel that his Muslim mates in the national club, Franck Ribery and Eric Abidal, had played a significant role in his conversion.
Born on August 6, 1983, Dutch player Robin van Persie is said to have converted to Islam after meeting Bouchra Van Persie, born Bouchra Elbali, who is of Moroccan origin. The Dutch footballer, who plays for the Netherlands national football team and Manchester United, has never talked about his religion, but reports say he is a non-practicing Muslim.
Reporting by Aziz Allilou
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