Challenge SPORT

by Andrew Halloway

Rich life equalled unhappiness

Fulham midfielder Keiran Richardson admits that a downward spiral of boozing and womanising was destroying his career

Kieran Richardson
“NOW I LOVE FOOTBALL” - Fulham midfielder Kieran Richardson celebrates scoring against Southampton on October 7, 2012

Now I have Jesus in my life I feel good in my heart" – that's what Fulham star Kieran Richardson told the press in 2012.

The former Manchester United and Sunderland player said his former wayward lifestyle had been transformed since becoming a Christian.

Speaking at a church in Langley Moor, County Durham, he revealed that he had been unhappy despite living 'the good life' of a highly paid Premiership footballer.

The 28-year-old England international said: "Five years ago all I cared about was going out and looking good. I started thinking about money rather than the football. I'd go out with my friends after a game to nightclubs, get drunk and meet women. I did that for a very long time. If you were on the outside looking in, you would think I was living the good life. But I wasn't happy."

>In fact, he was once targeted by Manchester United fans for his 'bling' – flash the cash – image. They dubbed him "Lord Snooty". It didn't help that he was London-born and privately educated.

Kieran salutes
FAITH ON DISPLAY - Kieran salutes the crowd after the FA Cup Third Round Replay against Blackpool on January 15, 2013

He admitted: "My last year at Manchester United, my football went off the rails. I was more worried about my social life than my football. I knew I wasn't performing because I was more interested in houses, cars, booze and sex."

When his father asked why he had gone 'off the boil', Kieran broke down in tears.

But after joining Sunderland in 2007, his future wife, Natalie Suliman, invited him to visit a church in the city.

He offered to take her on a holiday to Barbados, but she said she would only go if he went with her to church.

Kieran remembers: "One Sunday the pastor said, 'Does anyone in the church want to give their life to Jesus?' For some reason, I stood up."

Then he gave his life to Christ, like Natalie.

Kieran in action
WAS “OFF THE RAILS”, NOW REBORN - Kieran in action against West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground on September 1, 2012

He says: "I felt so special. It was a crazy feeling. My life changed. It didn't change straightaway; it was a gradual thing... a gradual process. My faith has grown and changed the way I look at life. Now I love football but give glory to God.

"Now I have Jesus Christ in my life and I feel good in my heart."

Kieran first attracted attention to his spiritual change in December 2012 when he celebrated scoring for Sunderland against Wolves. Taking off his shirt, he stunned fans by revealing a T-shirt with the slogan 'I belong to Jesus'; similar to the one that Brazilian star Kaka is famous for wearing. He was booked for removing his shirt, but at least he'd got off his chest his desire to go public about his faith.

He told the Northern Echo he had become "a born again Christian" by believing that Christ died for him. "It's changed my life for the better."

The phrase 'born again' comes from Jesus' own description of the massive change that He can bring to people's lives – so dramatic that it's like starting life all over again. It happens because Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit when we believe in Him.

Jesus explained it like this: "Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God... Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don't be surprised when I say, 'You must be born again'" (John 3:3-7).

Thinking of others, Keiran adds: "People say that to be successful you need to have money and a good job, but that's not true. People need to know that if they feel they can't talk to anyone, the church is here for them. The main thing is having a right relationship with God."

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