Cross The Line caught up with Newcastle and Ghana international, Christian Atsu. The winger talks about his defining career moments and his Christian faith.
As a young boy, who was your footballing hero when you were growing up in Ghana?
When I was growing up in Ghana the one I was looking up to was Lionel Messi. I think he is the greatest footballer and I think that he is also very humble and has a great attitude.
So Christian, at the age of 17, you joined Portuguese giants Porto. That must have been a life-changing move for you?
It was very difficult decision for me to make, my parents wouldn’t allow me but I had to speak the truth that this is a big opportunity for my career. When I went there everything was different, the weather, the language, everything. It was a very hard life in Portugal but as time went on I was becoming better and getting used to the people and the weather. Right now I am very happy because of FC Porto, they took very good care of me and I really appreciate what they did for me.
Was manager Andre Villas-Boas key to your development as a young player?
I was in the junior side while he was coaching there so when I was playing he brought me into the first team or sometimes training with them. He gave me the opportunity to train with payers like Hulk, Falcao and also James Rodriguez. So it was great for my confidence level, every time I trained with them and then went back to the junior side I felt confident.
So moving forward, was it an easy decision to go to Chelsea?
I think it was a really difficult decision for me to move to Chelsea because it was a new side, It was very difficult but I moved there because it was my dream to play in the English Premier League so when I had an opportunity no matter what anyone said I had to do everything to achieve my dream.
Let’s name your ultimate XI of players that you have played with. . .
Number one, the goalkeeper would be Tim Howard from Everton. On the right side Harrison Afful from the Ghana national team and then left back would be Baba Rahman from Ghana who is playing for Chelsea now. The two central defenders I give to Jonathan Mensah and Bruno Alves and then in midfield Wakaso from Ghana national team and Joao Moutinho who is now playing for Monaco. Number ten, I would give to James Rodriguez and on the right wing it’s Hulk who is playing for Zenit now. I’d put me on the left and the striker is Asamoah Gyan.
Who would you say is the best player that you’ve ever played against?
In the World Cup with Ghana I played against Cristiano Ronaldo, he was unbelievable.
You were named last year’s best player at the African Cup of Nations, how proud are you of this accolade?
First I thank God for giving me the opportunity to play in the African Cup, I am really proud of how far I have come and it was a great moment for me, most of all for my family and also for my career. It gives me motivation in my football career so I am really proud and happy for that moment.
Shifting the focus now, tell us about how you came to know Jesus?
I knew Jesus through my parents when I was growing up, they would be talking in the way of Christ and preaching me the gospel. I think they did a great job because Jesus is the best thing that ever happened in my life and I give thanks to my parents for how they brought me up to know Jesus. I have been a Christian since I was young, my parents wanted me to be a very good Christian because they knew the importance of it.
In your twitter bio you put ‘God is my inspiration, sport is my passion and success is my motivation’. Tell us what this means for you.
I think for me I’m inspired by God who gives me strength each and every day to move forward in my football career and sport is my passion. I love sports and I have passion for playing football, the last one is that success is my motivation. I want to be successful because I think that if you are a Christian, you’re a man of God and you have to be successful. It will be difficult but you will because God is your strength. God is not a failure and I am motivated to be successful.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
— Christian Atsu (@ChristianAtsu20) March 5, 2017
Are there any other Christian footballers that you touch base with?
When I went to Bournemouth there were a few Christians in their team, Junior Stanislas who plays for Bournemouth is a good friend of mine and we went to Church together, you can see on my Instagram page that I took a picture with the pastor so I sometimes hang out with him too. We went to church together and shared the word of God. Also in the Ghana national team I am always in a room with Jonathan Mensah and he is also a good Christian. When we go away with the national team, in the night we have to praise God and when we wake up we have to thank God so with him it is great because we motivate each other.
Do you believe that your footballing talent is a gift from God?
Yes, for me it’s not just football, it’s not just football talent. I believe all the talents that people have comes from God because he gives it to us and he wants us be successful in our talents. It’s not something that just happens, no, it is God who gives these talents to everyone.
What advice would you give to other Christian footballers making their way in the game?
The only advice that I can give to them is, we all want to be successful in football but we should not forget that it is not only football that we are playing. We have God in the life we live, outside of football, we don’t just pray for God to just help us play football. We ask God to help us to be good people, to be kind and to live a Christian life. It is about how you treat people, so we should not forget that we are not just playing football but we are also living a Christian life. The reason I am saying this is because people pray to God to give them something, but what if my football doesn’t work, does that mean that God didn’t listen to my prayers? No. It doesn’t mean that, what is important is that we know God is always there to worship even if we fail in our career, we will not be shaken in our belief in God.