Yaoundé, Cameroon—Cameroon midfielder and assistant captain of the national soccer team, Enoh Eyong has revealed though he didn’t grow up in a Christian home, he gave his life to the Lord. In an exclusive interview Ollie Baines, Co-founder of Cross The Line, the former Fulham and Ajax midfielder talks about his football career and Christian life. Read on
What was it like growing up and playing football in your home country of Cameroon?
“Growing up and playing football in Cameroon was very exciting, because as a kid I used to watch the likes of Rodger Miller & Samuel Eto’o, so football for every young person was a common reference. Kids would be playing football everywhere, in the house, on the roads, in schools, every boy and girl was playing football everywhere! I didn’t get serious about football until I was at college, then I was focused on it.”
Fast forward a few years and you’ve made a move to play for Ajax, was that your big career move?
“Yes, I would say that was my big career move to Ajax in 2008, I was playing in South Africa and before that I was in Cyprus and then before that I was in Cameroon. So my journey from Cameroon to Holland was definitely a big one, a big step for me and a huge platform. It was a big test for me because I wasn’t used to the platform. Ajax are a big European club who play Champions League football and with a huge history. It was surprising and exciting, but it was great.”
What was it like to be managed by Marco Van Basten?
“I remember when I came from Cape Town for a trial, I didn’t really know who the manager was and I was shocked Van Basten was the trainer. When you see the player he was and just the kind of goals he scored and now seeing him in the flesh was so exciting. I was able to work with him for 10 days in Amsterdam. For me, I was excited because the Lord said, “I will take you to many places to share the good news” and I was excited because he had taken me to Amsterdam and even if I have just 1 day, I will tell 1 person about Jesus and go back. It was a child-like excitement, I wanted to take everything in and to work with Van Basten was a true honour for me.”
Whilst at Ajax, you moved to Fulham. How did you enjoy your stint in the Premier League?
“Playing at Ajax, I saw a lot of Premier League football and I really wanted the opportunity. I loved the league, I loved the way football was played, it was a league I knew I could do well in. God willingly, in 2013, I was contacted by my former Ajax manager, Martin Jol who said, did I want to have an experience of the Premier League? Of course, I said yes and I loved it. It was a great year. Obviously I joined on loan and there had to be an agreement between Ajax and Fulham over a transfer which didn’t get well, so I ended back at Ajax.”
What’s been your career highlight?
“I think I’d have to give a spiritually focused answer to this. I’ve been given a platform to share the love of Jesus Christ wherever I go. There’s been a lot of opportunities that the Lord has given me in my career. I remember going to the 2010 World Cup Finals with Cameroon which as a player was amazing, but also for another reason. There was a DVD being made on the World Cup called “The Hand of God”. They were interviewing a number of players who believed in Jesus. For me, I didn’t just want to be a part of it and talk, I wanted to do as much as possible. So they came to my house, filmed how I lived, how I trained, how I evangelised on the streets in Cameroon and they also took videos of me praying with my team-mates. I wanted it to be something that was real for people to see. I wanted them to see a practical life of a footballer living his life for Jesus. So this was a great platform for me to share my faith. We also did another film session at the Brazil 2014 World Cup where I met with other Christian players like Kaka and it was made into 300 languages to be shared. So I am thankful the Lord permitted me to play in the World Cup Finals, but also to give me a platform to share my faith.
In terms of career, it was in 2010/2011, Ajax hadn’t won the League in 7 years and I was a apart of the team who won it and it was just phenomenal.”
GK – Carlos Kamini
RB – Geremi
CB – Nickolas Nkoulou
CB – Jan Vertonghen
LB – Thomas Vermaelen
CM – Jean Makoun
CM – Eyong Enoh
CM- Alexander Song
ST- Samuel Eto’o
ST – Dimitar Berbatov
ST- Luiz Suarez
Best player you’ve ever palyed with?
“No question of a doubt, it would be Samuel Eto’o. He is phenomenal. He always scores goals, no matter where he plays. Spain, Russia, Turkey; wherever he is, he is a goal scoring machine.”
Tell us how you become a Christian
“I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My parents didn’t go to church and nor did any of my siblings. I grew up in a normal African home. There was no religious set up for a Sunday. I grew up as a young man knowing that there was a God, but I just never had experienced him or encountered his love. It took me right until the time I was at high school, there was this guy speaking to a few students and I remember just being struck by his voice. I stopped and listened to him speak for an hour and a half and I just couldn’t leave. I just listened to him speak about the love of God and the second he finished speaking, I just felt the Lord God come all over me and I had to surrender to him. Even though I was doing well in school, I had a comfortable home, I had food and water, I could dress properly; inside I knew there was a hunger for something in my soul, but I never knew how to get it. Until that day, when the Gospel came to me, that was the day that I knew that was the only thing that could quench that thirst. That day in the year 2000, I gave my life to the Lord.”
How do you use your career to spread the message of the Gospel?
“In Cameroon, most people believe that it is impossible for you to be a Christian and be a footballer. You would have to believe in some sort of witchcraft, to play football and have a faith. Parents would pull their children out of football because they believed they would die or something, it was that serious. So when I became a Christian, I began to pray. I was not sure what I was going to do. I will never forget the day when the Lord said, “I am going to use you as an example to the world, to be a Christian in the world of football”. So that was one of the objectives God said to me. People think you can’t be a committed Christian in football because of all the temptations around. All the gambling and drinking, women and clubbing, people don’t think it’s possible. The next thing is, God told me I had to let go of the “idol” of football. I remember, there were some days where I had to contemplate whether to go and play football or go to church. One day I left the house to play football with some friends, I was walking past my Church when God said, “You’re going to have to let go of this idol of football first, then I can use you”. That was the day I stopped worshipping football. I watched, played and thought about football so much, until that day when I started filling it with God. The third thing, is the life I live as a footballer. Being different is important, I get players asking me, “why are you like this? Why don’t you curse? How do you do it?”. So through peoples questioning, I can talk about my faith to them. I can tell them that God is more than willing to change their lives in the same way that he has done for me.”
Favourite Bible Verse?
“People give you their testimonies according their background and the environment they came from. For me, you couldn’t be a Christian and be a footballer. There was such persecution there. I was worried that I had a problem, because I wanted to be a Christian footballer, so I asked God, “do I have a problem?” and he said “no”. So I then asked him, “Ok, if I don’t have a problem, then speak to me through your word” and I was shown Colossians chapter 1 which brought me liberty, it says this, “All things were made for him and by him” – that gave the boldness to know that God gave me the chance and gift to use football for his glory.”
What does the future hold for Eyong Enoh?
“John chapter 3 talks about the how God gives us a picture of our future and our end, but it does not give us details of the in-between. That is where we need to have faith. God showed me a picture that I will be preaching the Gospel to many people. He is using football as a vehicle in me to tell others about Christ and that is just the beginning. Who knows where he will lead me, every-day is a new opportunity and even if I bring one person to faith, I will be excited about that day.”
Culled from Cross The Line, original interview here.