As Muslim pilgrims who performed the 2018 Hajj in Saudi Arabia began their journey back home after successful Hajj rites, Muslim News presents a review of some world famous Muslim footballers who have embarked on either Umrah (Lesser Hajj) or Hajj to fulfil their religious duties, despite the busy schedules of their professional careers.
Let’s look at the home front! What a way to start!
The 26 year old Nigerian footballer who recently moved to Saudi Arabian club side, Al-Nassr, was in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2014 for the Hajj.
The 2013 AFCON winner visited Makkah while he was still with his then Russian Club, CSKA Moscow in 2014, before moving to the English Premiership to play for Leicester City.
Muslim News’ findings revealed that Ahmed Musa felt visiting the Holy Land for the Lesser Hajj is a way of showing gratitude to Allah for His favour, after almost 20 years since Nigeria last won the trophy in Tunisia ’94.
“Hajj for me, as a Muslim, is a great honour,” Ahmed Musa told Russian sports daily – express.ru
“When we got to the African Cup of Nations, I realised that here is the right moment, and whether I will still do so in the near future is unknown”.
Known for his popular prostrating mode of celebration when hits the back of the net during matches, the Super Eagles’ all-time top scorer in World Cup history said that it was the right time for him to visit the Holy Land for the Hajj pilgrimage.
“Then, the opportunity to visit Makkah for me was not expected until now. This is called Hajj Umrah, the small pilgrimage”
“I think I am born again. Especially if you come to Mecca, you are forgiven all sins,” he said.
Football, they say, is a uniting factor. Ahmed Musa won the hearts of Nigerians more during the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup. His brace against Iceland for the Super Eagles was a major uniting factor for Nigerians, regardless of religion or tribal affiliation, on that fateful night.
Following his new found love with money spinning club, Al-Nassr, it is expected that Ahmed Musa is now better placed to observe more Hajj rites in his life time, due to his settling in Saudi Arabia, where he now plies his football trade with the Arabian Giants.
During the 2018 Eid-ul-Adha festival, Musa took to Twitter to felicitate with Muslims across the world on the occasion of the Eid.
He tweeted; “Eid Mubarak to all my brothers and sisters 🙏🌙@OfficialShehu https://t.co/kILbIQkwUT”
The French and Bayern Munich veteran player, Frank Ribery was sighted performing the 2010 Lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
Ribery said he is thankful to his father and to Wahiba Belhami – his wife of Algerian origin – who he says is the reason he converted to Islam in 2002 and took on his Muslim name; Bilal.
According to the former Marseille playmaker, “Religion is my personal thing. I am a believer and since I converted to Islam, I think, I became stronger; I became mentally and physically stronger. Religion did not change my personality or my perception of the world,” emphasized Ribery.
It will be recalled that Ribery championed the cause for Bayern Munich management to establish a mosque at the Alianze Arena for the club’s Muslim players to observe Solat.
Bayern Munich are currently the Bundesliga champions for the last six seasons in a row.
Paul Pogba is a prominent Muslim French international who visited the Holy Ka’abah in the month of Ramadan 2017. Though little might be known about his faith by virtue of his name, the Manchester United player who led the French team to lift their Second World cup outside home soil shared a picture of himself in Mecca with the caption “Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life”.
Following the end of the season, he shared a short video of himself with a suitcase, saying he was “en route” for his prayers. He is attending Umrah, a non-mandatory Muslim pilgrimage.
Pogba was reported to have visited Mecca at least once before, when he performed the Hajj, a journey every healthy adult Muslim who can afford it is supposed to make at least once in his/her life…BBC News
Mesut Ozil is a German footballer whose pictures of his Umrah in Makkah went viral on social media. The Arsenal midfielder is one of the most popular Muslim football stars in the world, along with Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Muhammad Salah (Liverpool) and others.
Özil, who is of Turkish origin, recently announced his retirement from international football for Germany after the 2014 World Champions could not go beyond the group stage of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup. Ozil, a former Real Madrid star, won German Footballer of the Year in 2015. It was reported that prior to the start of the mundial, Ozil had visited Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, which fell on wrong side of the German Football Federation (DFB).
Mesut Özil blamed unfair discrimination over his meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May for his decision to retire from international football.
Amongst other active Muslim footballers who had as well gone to Makkah for the Hajj rites is Karim Benzema, French footballer of Algerian descent who plays for Real Madrid in the Spanish La Liga.
Abou Diaby is a former Arsenal player who currently plays for French side Marseille. The French international is a devout Muslim who has observed the Holy Pilgrimage many times.
A Senegalese professional Muslim footballer who plays as a striker for Chinese club; Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, the 33 year old who at a point sustained a career-threatening injury was spotted in Mecca for the Hajj in 2013.
“Once at the Al-Haram Mosque, this is the appearance of the Nabawi Mosque,” Demba Ba wrote while uploading the photos of his Hajj rites in 2013. Ba returned to perform Umrah in 2015, shortly after joining Shanghai Shenhua. Ba this time felt more special because his Umrah was done during the month of Ramadan.
Former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka is a devout Muslim who has visited Mecca to perform the Holy Pilgrimage.
Former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor was born into a Christian family on February 26, 1984, but the Togolese international changed his religion to Islam and he gave his reasons for his action.
However, the lanky forward has exemplified the good character of a devout Muslim, as he has gone to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj.
– By Yusuf Akinlotan/with Agency Report