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27 June 2010

Top footballer: I could be dead but God saved and restored me


A Premiership football star has revealed just how important a part God has played in his life, reports Christian Concern for our Nation.

On the brink of appearing in the final of Europe’s second most prestigious competition, Fulham star Zolt├ín Gera, 31, revealed the life story of how his Christian faith has helped him to overcome many problems in his youth.

As a youngster, Mr Gera was driven to the brink by drink, drugs and gambling. He claims he was saved by finding God and now he hopes his remarkable story will serve as an example of how a life tainted by despair can become one graced with hope.

His story, which appeared in The Evening Standard, becomes all the more remarkable taking into account that doctors once told him he had subjected his body to so much abuse, through the imbibing of alcohol and illegal substances, that he would never realise his dream of playing football at the highest level.

‘I was very, very skinny because I did lots of bad things. Doctors said I would never be a professional football player because my body was no longer good enough,’ Mr Gera recalls.

He continued, saying how he was turned by feral influences at school, missing his football training sessions and even forming a gang to create trouble in his area. Dreaming about becoming ‘a criminal, a real godfather, feared by all, who robs people and fights them every day,’ Mr Gera had abandoned school and football by the age of 16.

After his father offered him the chance to visit a local church, he was ‘shocked to see people happily smiling and singing’.

‘On our way home I asked my father why the people were singing and clapping together. He told me that they were singing to God because they had experienced His presence. Right then, I had a good feeling,’ he says.

After visiting the church and turning to God he experienced a total transformation. Despite being ill and very skinny, and being told by doctors that he will never play football again, he said that ‘the Bible says whatever the locust and the worm devours, God will restore.’

‘One day as I was going home from a game of football, with the ball in my hand, I started to pray. I said: ‘Help me, God, that I may become a good player.’ I honestly told God I wanted to become a successful player, that people may see there is a way out of the mess I was in, that there was hope for them, too. I'm happy now, I'm a lucky boy,’ he said in another interview.

Fifteen years on and a fully restored attacking midfielder, Mr Gera has captained his national side, making 63 appearances to date and been named Hungarian Player of the Year three times in 2002, 2004 and 2005. He has also been named in the 2007–08 The Championship all-star team.

‘I'm a Christian and I believe God gives me lots of energy,’ said Mr Gera.

‘But of course, you also need to work hard. You need to do your best at your job and it will pay off. I was a bad boy but I changed. That's why I want to be a good example. It doesn't matter how old you are, you can turn your life to the good way. It doesn't matter where you have been before, you can still play in a football final.’

‘Every single day I think about where I was 15 years ago and where I am today. It's been an amazing journey for me. Yes, I have been so lucky,’ he added.

Today, 12 May 2010, Mr Gera will appear in the Europa League Final against Atletico Madrid.

In February 2010, another top sportsman explained why God’s word and his Christian faith are important to him, and why he refuses to play on Sundays and even watch the first match of his team.

Photo via ccfon.org

Euan Murray, a Scottish rugby union star, currently playing for Northampton Saints, told the media how in finding God he was able to change his path. The Guardian described how Mr Murray took a mug of tea and a glass of water and held them out in front of him.

‘This is the tea, all dirty and horrible, this is me, yeah? That's Jesus,’ he says, motioning to the water.

‘Pure. He's taken that filth upon himself and before God he says, 'Punish me for it'. He's been punished and look what he's given me. That perfect goodness in the eyes of God. He's declared me innocent.

‘Can it be that simple?’ he said swilling the dregs of the tea and smiling.

‘I'm ashamed of the things I've done. Of course I am. But I'm thankful I have a saviour. He's saved me from that lifestyle. He's given me a new life.’

When asked whether his faith conflicts with the team ethos of the sport, he responded:

‘You bring your individual assets to benefit the team and hopefully you'll get synergy when you put all these different components together. I'm a Christian, I try to be hard working, honest and fair. That's what I bring to the team.’

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