We caught up with Watford goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes on his journey to becoming a Premier League goalkeeper and why God is so important in his life both on and off the field.
Heurelho, growing up in Brazil, what were your earliest memories of playing football?
“It was a difficult life to begin with but of course everything that happened over there makes me stronger and a better person today. It wasn’t easy when I was young, I used to live on a farm and I came from a poor family. But I thank God that I’m now here in England, playing football in the best league in the world.”
Did you always want to be a keeper?
“No, I never wanted to be a keeper. In Brazil, our preference is always about being a striker. I tried to play as a striker, but it didn’t quite work out for me and so I ended up playing in goal instead.”
What was it like playing in Brazil and being regarded as one of the best keepers around and then making you way into the Premier League?
“Yeah of course it was nice but Brazil is a lot different than here in England. I felt it was an easier league over there but now I’m here it’s a lot more technical to be a Premier League goalkeeper. I started to play in goal quite late, I was about eighteen years old when I decided to be a keeper, so for me it’s a huge achievement to now be a goalkeeper in the best league in the world.”
So during your time with Spurs and now with Watford, what’s been your highlight in England?
“My focus is never really on a highlight. I don’t really like to think about that. My focus is about helping my team, now. I’m not really one for the spot light, I’m quite quiet and I like to do my talking on the pitch. I never look for my highlight or my best moment. I always want to do the best I can and this moment now, at Watford is so special.”
How do you deal with the pressures of football?
“I can’t do this by myself. I have a faith that helps me. Sometimes it’s so difficult to deal with the pressures in football, it makes players go crazy. From my position, if a striker doesn’t score a goal for one or two games, it’s fine. If a goalkeeper makes a mistake, it’s fine. For me, God is the most important thing to deal with the pressures like this. For example, my time at Tottenham, I had days where I didn’t feel good, but my faith helped me deal with situations over there. Every day I try to do my best because I put God first, that’s how I can deal with any kind of pressure.”
Best player you’ve ever played with and why?
“Oh, this is a difficult question. There’s the Brazilian Ronaldo, you know, he was just incredible. I can mention so many players who I had the pleasure of playing with. Ronaldinho as well. There’s Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. It’s so hard, I can name you two teams worth of amazing players!”
So tell us, what’s the secret behind your infamous long throw?
“My secret! It’s natural! To be honest with you, I used to be able to throw it longer than I can now, but it starts to hurt my shoulder a little bit. It’s a natural throw for me. It’s more technique than power and I really feel that my throw is better than my kick because I can reach the target more accurately. I remember at the beginning of the 2015/2016 season for Watford, we scored in one of the first games from one of my long throws and that’s good. When I was playing for Cruzeiro, in Brazil we had this tactic in a game where the number 10 would come and receive the ball at his feet from my long throw and then the attackers would go on to score lots and lots of goals that season because of the throw tactic.”
How did you become a Christian?
“I came to faith, because I believe that you’re never going to take anything from here, on this earth to the tent. I was missing something in my life before I was a Christian, so I started going to church and I began to follow God. Even as a footballer, you need something, Before I met God, I started going a little crazy because everything is there for you when you are a footballer. You have to have something different to take you away from these things and that’s what God did. He took me away from them. I do not need to go out and go to a night club now, I have a family and I’m able to do things better. That’s why I changed my life forever. Before, the things in this world were the best for me, but now, my main target is to do things right for God. Thanks to God, my life is so different now and I’m far happier.”
Our very own book with exclusive interviews!
Featuring: Kaka, Hernanes, Saido Berahino, Darren Bent, Odion Ighalo, Victor Wanyama and many more!
Obviously playing professional football means you’re very busy, how do you manage to maintain a closeness to Jesus?
“Every Saturday I normally go to church. Obviously, some Saturday’s when we are playing an away match, it’s difficult to get back in time, but even if I go for just twenty-five minutes, it’s enough. If after the game, some of the lads say there’s a party going on, I tell them, OK enjoy your party but I am off to church. Midweek, on a Wednesday I often go to church too. When I was at Tottenham and things weren’t going right for me there, I used to wake up at five o clock in the morning, travel into London for one hour and go to church to have some time. I think we have to do things like this, God gave us everything and getting up early to spend time with him is nothing in comparison. I know that if I put God in first place then he is faithful. He will never let anyone down. Everything that I do, is not for me, it is for him.”
Do you meet up with other Christian footballers?
“Sometimes, I normally meet up with David Luiz especially with Brazil. I remember during the World Cup, that was really good because we had a pastor over there and it was me, Kaka and Lucio praying together. Even here in England there are a few players who I can meet up with at times.”
Can you give fans an idea of what it’s like to be a Christian and a footballer?
“You have to be different. You have to show people that there is something different in your life, when you follow Jesus, people can see there’s something different about you. It’s not going to be easy, because not everyone will share your faith but you have to try to do your best and show people they can have it too. It’s not easy, but I have never denied Jesus. People might say that because I am a footballer, I cannot be a Christian because there are so many temptations that come to you. As a footballer who is a Christian, I feel like I should try and be an example to others and show that I am different.”
Do you think Christian footballers should be more open about their faith and why?
“Yes, I believe so. We need to show what we believe and what is the right thing to do. I believe we as footballers have the power to show who Jesus is and help change people. The power of football is so strong and that’s why I upload a picture to Instagram, I will always post a comment about God because all the glory has to go to him. I believe that I need to show people my faith more, so I can help them live life in the right way. I’m not going to force people to change their minds, I’m just here to help them find their way.”