Liam Flint caught up with former Spurs and now Chievo winger, Paul-Jose M’Poku about how his faith in God has impacted his career.
Liam: PJ thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at Cross The Line, we really appreciate it.
PJ: You’re welcome, it is not for me, it’s for the glory of God.
Liam: So to kick off, growing up, at what point did you think ‘ I want to be a pro footballer’?
PJ: I think when I was young, when I was five I started playing on the streets and my dad was taking me. I think it was from the beginning you know, I watched football on TV and when I was always going to play on the streets everyone was saying that I was still young but when you are at the age of 10, 12, then you are starting to play better. I thought that’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to be.
Liam: So at that point, who was your dream club to play for one day?
JP: My dream team had always been Real Madrid because I liked the players and at the time they had Beckham, Ronaldo and Figo so loved to watch the team, especially because Zidane was playing for them.
Liam: So what was it like moving to a huge club like Tottenham at a young age?
JP: It was a big dream as well because I was just 15 years old and a club like Tottenham came to me and wanted me. At that age I didn’t know what to do but I made the decision to go and it was one of the best decisions I made in my life.
Liam: You’ve spent the biggest part of your career to date at Standard Liege in Belgium, what’s been your personal highlight?
PJ: Playing for your home town is one of the biggest things that everybody dreams of, to play where you grew up, it’s so special and for me Standard Liege will always be special.
Liam: So now you are playing for Chievo in Italy, how are you finding life in Serie A?
PJ: Life in Serie A is good, I came here last October to play for Cagliari and then some huge clubs wanted me in Italy. I chose Chievo because I knew I had to make another step, again, before maybe going to a bigger club. Unfortunately I had an injury in the beginning, with my ankle, then I had an operation on my cheek, so I lost lots of game time but God knows why, so I am just putting my trust in him. Now I am back training and I feel pretty good.
Liam: Being quite a well-travelled footballer already, what is the best league that you have played in?
PJ: Wow, I am only 23 and you know I have already played maybe 100 games in the first division, I don’t know obviously I was in Tottenham where I had one game on the bench in the cup but didn’t play in the Premier League so I can’t really say that. It’s different you know, Italy is different, I think Serie A is better than Belgium because there is bigger clubs and players so maybe I would say Serie A. Belgium is a good league to get strength and to play and to get fit.
Liam: Say if you weren’t a footballer, what would you be doing?
PJ: I don’t know actually, seriously I don’t know, it has always been football.
Watch the best of M’Poku:
Liam: We know that there’s more to you than just your football career, tell us how you became a Christian?
PJ: I gave my life to Jesus when I went to a concert event where there was a pastor who shared his testimony and I found it touching because at that time I came to England and didn’t speak English. I had injured my ankle, I had my uncle there who was close to me who died. Obviously I had my best friend John Bostock there as well and this one time I saw him praying and for me I grew up as a ‘Christian’ but it was really religious. I grew up going to church, my mum was Catholic and so I grew up knowing God, that he was real and praying. I wasn’t really in it, I didn’t give my life to God but just knew that there was a God. So then I saw John Bostock praying and I said ‘are you a Christian?’ And he said ‘yeah’ and so he invited me to his church and that’s how I became a Christian really. God really brought us together.
Liam: Is it difficult being a Christian combined with the glamorous lifestyle that comes with being a pro footballer?
PJ: I think the Holy Spirit makes it easier but it’s still not easy because in the football world there’s girls, money and this and that. You are around all these things so you hear what is happening you hear what they do and are like. By God’s grace I continue to be there, to pray and to try and make a difference.
Liam: Do you have a favourite Bible verse that encourages you?
PJ: Yeah it’s 1 Corinthians 10:31, it’s whatever you say, whatever you do do it to the glory of God. That’s my favourite verse because I think it’s just perfect, do everything for the glory of God, don’t do it for man or anyone else, do it for him.
Liam: PJ you and some other Christian pro footballers have set up a group called ‘Ballers In God’, tell us why that came about.
PJ: John Bostock had been praying about it and then he spoke to me about it and I said yeah I think it could be good because it is just really to encourage together because there are many Christians in France and Belgium. we just want to encourage each other, pray for each other if he (John) is going through a tough time, like the bible says iron sharpens iron and that’s what we really want to do.
Liam: Finally PJ what does the future hold for you?
PJ: I don’t know man, I just want to play football and then and see where God’s going to take me, I maybe had some opportunity to come back to the Premier League in the last transfer window. If I go back to the Premier League I want to go back to a good club with a good contract and not just come back to be in the Premier League. It is important for me to play most weeks but I can’t really do anything but work hard and see what God wants me to do. I think the next step after Chievo would be to play in the Champions League or Europa League, I will see.
Thanks again to Paul-Jose for speaking to us here at Cross The Line.