Football is one of the most popular sports in the world and footballers are some of the most high-profile public athletes. However, there is still so much we do not know about our favourite footballers.
Religion is one of the most sensitive and salient features of a person. While some footballers are extremely open about their personal beliefs, there are some famous footballers whose religions of choice are no so well known.
Without much ado, let us take a look at 10 footballers who you might not know were Muslim: (First let us take a look at the most famous Muslim footballers)
Some well known Muslim footballers
One of the most well-known current active footballers on this list, Mesut Ozil is often seen bestowing his thanks to the Almighty on the football pitch. The German footballer recites from the Quran before his match.
Özil said, "I always do that before I go out [on the pitch]. I pray and my teammates know that they cannot talk to me during this brief period."
One of the greatest footballers of all time, Zidane is probably the most famous Muslim footballer to ever play the game. A once in a generation player, Zidane has now made an extremely successful transition to management, even winning the Champions League twice in two years with Real Madrid. The Frenchman is not overtly religious though and does not publicly show or speak much about his personal beliefs.
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is another Real Madrid star who practices Islam. One of the biggest stars in Zidane’s team, Benzema is a devout Muslim who follows fasting in the holy month of Ramadan.
I am sure most of you guys would have known about the above 3 footballers. Now let us take a look at names which might surprise you:
#10 Emmanuel Adebayor
One of the greatest African players of the last generation, Emmanuel Adebayor has had a successful career in various top clubs across Europe including Arsenal, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Currently playing for Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir, Adebayor converted to Islam as recently as July 2015. The formerTottenham striker is seen wearing white robes taking part in the Shahada, a ceremony in which one declares belief in 'the oneness of Allah and acceptance of Muhammad as his prophet' in a video on Youtube.
The Togo striker will be hoping to guide his side to the Champions League group stages after finishing an impressive second place in the Turkish Super League in the 2016/17 season. The below video shows Adebayor converting to Islam in July 2015:
#9 Nicolas Anelka
One of the most talented strikers to emerge from France in the last 25 years, Nicolas Anelka converted to Islam from Christianity when he was just 16. Another not so well known fact is that Anelka even adopted the Muslim name Abdul-Salam Bilal in 1994. Speaking about his conversion, Anelka said:
“I was sixteen when I converted to Islam, beyond the fraternal aspect, my conversion did not change my life. I was already living by the same principles — being righteous, having values. I used to fast during Ramadan because I admired the people fasting around me. What made me convert was that I had that certainty that Islam was for me.
“I felt this relationship with God, and that enlightened my life. I had that conviction in my heart that that was my religion. I am pleased to be a Muslim, a religion of peace and I learned a lot from Islam.” – he was quoted saying.
Anelka was last seen as the manager of Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC.
#8 Marouane Fellaini
Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini is a Muslim by birth. Born to Morrocan parents from Tangier and brought up in Brussels, Fellaini had successful spells at Standard Liege and Everton before securing a big money move to Premier League giants Manchester United.
The combative midfielder has had a mixed spell at Old Trafford, but he has managed to win an FA Cup and a Europa League title with the Red Devils, Still only 29, Fellaini still has a good 4-5 years left at the top level.
Used by Jose Mourinho to bully players in the air, Fellaini’s physical presence on the pitch has often broken stubborn defences. The Belgian might not be the most stylish player on the pitch, but there is no doubting his effectiveness for Manchester United.
#7 Eric Abidal
Eric Abidal is a fighter. The Barcelona legend came back from cancer to play at the very highest level again. A supremely decorated footballer, the former Monaco left-back has won plenty of trophies all over Europe.
Abidal converted from Christianity to Islam in 2007 after marrying Algerian-born former gymnast Hayet Kebir. Speaking about his conversion, Abidal said:
“All the natural progress. Options converted to Islam not because of my wife, but a gift that had suddenly appeared. It really happened there. Flowing away and made me feel happy. I embraced Islam with full confidence,” he was quoted saying.
One of the game’s premier left-backs, Abidal had a long and successful career at Barcelona before finally calling time at Olympiacos after the end of 2014-15 season.
#6 Granit Xhaka
Arsenal and Swiss midfield star Granit Xhaka is one of the three Muslim first team stars (along with Ozil and Mustafi) at the North London side. Bought from German side Borussia Monchengladbach for a fee of around £35 million, the Swiss star has had a decent first season.
Capable of breaking up play and setting up attacks with equal ease, Xhaka after a tough settling period showed his true game towards the end of the season where he played a crucial role in Arsenal’s stunning FA Cup triumph over Chelsea.
Not afraid of crunching into tackles, Xhaka’s physical presence in the centre of the field coupled with his ball playing skills gives Arsene Wenger’s side a new dimension and it will be interesting to see how the Swiis midfielder fares in his second season at the Premier League club.