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Dean Williams / News Images / Sipa USA
Dean Williams / News Images / Sipa USA
Dean Williams News Images Sipa USA
Dean Williams News Images Sipa USA
World News

Footballer Beni Baningime: 'I found true happiness in God'

by Cara Bentley

Hearts player Beni Baningime says "God is bigger than football" as he talks about how he found faith. 

Baningime, 23, moved to the Scottish club, Heart of Midlothian from Everton in July. 

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Beni entered Everton’s youth programme aged nine and made his first team debut in a League Cup game against Chelsea in 2017, shortly followed by a Premier League debut against Leicester City.

He played 12 times for Everton’s first team and was loaned to Wigan Athletic and Derby County.

In an interview with the BBC, he's been speaking about the brutal nature of football and how what really makes him tick is his faith in the Lord Jesus: "I experienced God and I don't know if you believe in God or if you don't, but for me, God is bigger than football. He's bigger than life. He is everything to me. I just didn't like the way I was living. I was broken as a person until a few years ago really. I didn't have my identity. I'm talking about girls and all these different things that people tell you to do. It wasn't me.

Dean Williams / News Images / Sipa USA

 

"I was looking for something more. I found true happiness in God. You go to a nightclub and look around and I was like, 'What am I doing here?' I'm not judging anybody who enjoys that life, but it wasn't the life I wanted.

"So I'm always reading my bible. I feel God is always with me and guiding me on the right path. I come into training and I pray, before I play a game I pray. You might have seen me."

Baningime also spoke about being left off the Everton team in 2019-20 and not getting much game time at Derby either, but said he never depended on football for his stability:

"The bible says, 'You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you'. The whole time I had peace. That's why you can't put your joy in football because injuries and rejection can happen and I had to learn it the hard way. I had to learn that God is the only one who is going to stick by you when the whole of football had forgotten who you were.

"My agent would say, 'There's no-one in for you'. I thought, 'I'm a decent player, I'm not that bad'. Last window, who was in for me? Hearts and maybe one more. Everybody else was like, 'We don't want him'. That's the reality. Now my agent is saying people are starting to see you again and I'm like, 'Why didn't they give me a chance before?' That's why I am so thankful to Hearts and what the club has done for me."

"When I'm on the pitch I'm in a war, but when it's over, football is not everything to me. If it was everything in my life then it wouldn't work."

When asked about he would deal with racism if he experienced it during a game, he responded: "The way I would handle it is the way Jesus would have handled it - love the person and hopefully they can change. 'I'm not your enemy, I don't know who has polluted your mind but I am not your enemy'. Some black people I know, because they have seen such oppression, they say, 'I don't like white people'. They've gone hard and they want me to have that same mentality. I say, 'No, I try to love everyone'."

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