Jack Roberts recently chatted to Fort Lauderdale striker Guiseppe Gentile about his life in the world of professional soccer and as a Christian.
How did you become a footballer?
“I fell in love with the game when I was 5. I started off playing Hockey at first and then my parents stuck me into the sport of soccer and I fell in love with it and ever since then I’ve been playing.”
Would you say your youth career, in Switzerland, was beneficial to you? What type of things did you learn to grow as a footballer?
“I definitely learnt the value of camaraderie. You learn a lot of experiences as a child because you play with kids that you like and kids that you don’t like as much so obviously those are some experiences that shape you and mould you as a person and as player. On the field as well, stuff like tactics and techniques. Stuff like that. That’s probably the most important thing as a child.”
So hows life at Fort Lauderdale?
“Obviously it’s a beautiful place to be. Everyone wants to be in Florida, it’s such a beautiful city. I mean, it’s a very ideal location and it’s very close to Miami, but still far enough that you don’t really catch the fast lifestyle.
— Giussi Gentile (@GiussiJuice7) April 20, 2016
So your there but your not there. You can remove yourself at any time. The life here is nice- the beach, the club is a good club, they take good care of you. You can’t ask for anything better then that.”
The Soccer culture is continuing to grow. How excited are you to be involved in this process of growth in Soccer?
“It’s kind of bitter sweet you know. It’s cool that you can be a part of history and that you can live through certain milestones. When we’re older, 60s-70s, and you can say ‘yeah, I was a part of the process, I was a part of the culture that is now, and I helped it grow and build it up’, but then again there’s nothing more than you want as a footballer then to be playing in the Premier League or having like a Jamie Vardy story and you know making it. So, it’s kind of bitter sweet but you know especially with the faith, God has us here for a reason so obviously I am where I am and supposed to be, so I’m not worried about that aspect at all. It’s more, you could look at it like the cup is half-full or half-empty and I look at it more on the positive side. I’m helping it grow you know.”
Your season has just got underway, what are your aims for this season and the clubs aims?
“Of course every year you have aspirations of becoming a champion. You don’t go through pre-season thinking we’re going to have a bad season. Obviously the season’s still fresh, it’s young. We still have to fix some bugs, some tactical and technical areas. The ultimate goal is play-off’s so we’re fighting for that. On a personal level, I want to score and assist my team as much as I can. I’m kind of waiting for my break-out season to create a name for myself.”
So can you tell us how you became a Christian?
“I was in the church my whole life. I went to church with my parents from a young age, even in Switzerland. When I moved to the United States in 2008, I was more on my own. I was kind of believing in my Mother’s God you know, like my family’s God rather then my own God. I would go to church still, go through the motions but obviously I had faith. I believed in everything but it wasn’t really that intimate faith and personal relationship. I would pray and go to church but when I was 18, I suffered my second biggest injury (knee injury) and I was ready to give up football; I was like ‘I haven’t even made it to professional level yet, I’ve had two major surgeries already and I’m not trying to go through all these hardships for penny’s’. Obviously, I knew that the life of a footballer isn’t the glamour and fame you think it is unless you’re at like Real Madrid or playing in the Premier League. That hardship and that trial really bought me closer to God, that’s what kind of pulled me in really, into faith. I relied more on God rather then myself and that was kind of how it began. I kind of involved myself a lot more with a church called ‘Elevation’ in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where I grew up and kind of stayed, so I got involved there and that’s what pulled me in and built my path. It helped me a lot.”
Do you try to talk about your faith with your fellow team-mates?
“Yeah, I mean some team-mates are more open about their faith then others. You know I believe there’s some guys that are more faithful then they put out to be. They might not be quite there yet but in terms of faith, they don’t want to take that leap of faith. They kind of believe in something better then themselves but they don’t want to commit to a religion or they don’t want to commit to a God you know, but yeah I do speak to some of my team mates but like other guys have said, it’s a very sensitive topic especially in our days where a lot of things are very sensitive and very offensive to many people, and in my opinion for no reason, just because they want to take offence to whatever.
Yeah, I have quite a few fellow team mates that are devoted Christians as well. I mean you look at for example Jean Alexandre, he’s a faithful guy and he helps lead us Christians in the team and he’s the one that’s more outspoken; he does Bible Study in the team as well. If someone approaches me about it, I’m more then welcome to talk about it, so it’s kind of fifty fifty. It’s not really like I approach them more, it’s more if they have questions for me, it’s more open. I try to give them insight on what it’s about.”
Do you have a favourite verse from the Bible and why?
“Yeah, I have a couple. Phillipians 4:13- ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. I have kind of swayed away from that though because everybody’s been kind of living their life upon that verse- it’s the truth. I don’t disregard it at all, I wanted to have a verse that really stuck to me personally. I didn’t want go through ‘oh yeah, everybody takes up that verse’, so, one of my favourite verses, and this went with the time when I was going through my knee surgery, is ‘2 Timothy 1:7- For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’ That’s one that stuck with me for a very long time. It came about when I came back from my major surgery process and I was getting ready for my first game back from knee surgery and I was extremely nervous. I was fearful. I was like ‘I don’t want to hurt myself again’, ‘I don’t want to go through that whole process, surgery, medicine, feeling sick’. I just didn’t want to go through that again, but then ironically I stumbled across this Bible verse online because I wanted some verses to calm me down and that one stood out to me and I was like ‘wow’. You could be reading the Bible and then all of a sudden there’s this verse that sticks out to you boldly you know. It sticks out to you in fat bold letters and that was one of them. That kind of stuck with me for the rest of my life. Actually, it was funny, I kind of forgot it, but ever since that day it’s been in the back of my mind, I never memorised it. It just stuck with me. It stayed there forever and ever. It’s just been there. The Lord has ways to make his presence known and that’s certainly one that’s stuck with me.”
Do you see your footballing ability as a gift from God?
“Yes of course. He ordains everything.
God is faithful. Need to work hard, but have to pray harder! #GodIsTheReason
— Giussi Gentile (@GiussiJuice7) April 17, 2016
Obviously talents are ordained; talents are spoken about in the Bible. God gives everyone a unique talent and certain people choose to embrace it and some people choose to dig it down because they’re embarrassed of it. They don’t believe in themselves a lot so they kind of just bury it. I definitely believe my talent was a God-given gift. It might not just be the ability, it might be the mentality or the passion for the game. God gives you ability’s and certain characteristics. They might be the most technical player on your team, but he might not be the fittest, he might not be the hardest worker but he has this unbelievable touch and that’s God given. He doesn’t sit on the couch and be a hot-potato sitting watching TV all day, he works at his craft, it’s God given you know. If everybody did the same drill, not everyone would be as good as him.”
Finally, what advice would you give to young Christians starting out in their football careers?
“Don’t be discouraged by the World. They’ll be a lot of people telling you, pursue school or pursue this, pursue that, take the safe route. Obviously when there’s trials ahead, in the darkest moments is when the light shines the brightest, that’s when God comes to you and that’s when he becomes most intimate with you. When your going through your darkest trial, Don’t give up because that’s the easiest way out.”