Franck Ribery: Islam has strengthened me
World Bulletin/News Desk
The Frenchman – who was named the UEFA Best Player in Europe last season – is among the top contenders along with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, to win the Ballon d’Or on January 13, 2014.
The world famous football player says he is a man of small things: “I am aware that life consists of small things. That is why I always stand when someone stops me on the street. I talk to many people. My mission is to make people happy.”
He says his family was as a child and that his father taught him to respect people:
“My father worked a lot for us. He gave me the character of a winner, taught me to overcome difficult moments in life, and I had a lot of them. He taught me to stay ‘on the ground’ in every moment in life. That is why, today I try to enjoy in every moment, in every training, in every game. I want to make people happy, in the pitch and out of it.
“I worked in construction with my father to earn a living. I knew to play football when I was a child, and even that time I knew football will be more important than school for me. Actually, I was aware I can benefit from it. Though, I have not even dreamt that I can make such a big career. I was thinking I can play in the first or second league but I never thought I will be at the highest level. I had a great support from my father and wife and it helped me get here. Football gave me everything.”
Ribery says he is thankful to his father and to Wahiba Belhami — his wife of Algerian origin — who Ribery says is the reason why he converted to Islam in 2002 and added Muslim name Bilal.
“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,” emphasizes Ribery.
He says for the past few months he has assumed a different role on the pitch.
“Coach Pep Guardiola tells me that I should always play closer to the rival’s goal post,” Ribery says, adding that he took his advice.
He is defiant of allegations over disputes between him and the Bayern Munich coach.
“Pep Guardiola is one of the best coaches in the world. It is easy to understand him. He talks a lot with players. He brought many new things to our dressing room. I hope we will win trophies with him. It started well, we won the [UEFA] Super Cup at the beginning of the season.”
Talking on his plans for future he says he intend to stay in Bayern Munich as long as possible.
“I am satisfied with my position and my family is happy living in Munich.
“Bayern is football giant which I greatly respect. We have excellent relations with media and it contributes great to the image of the team in the world. I want to stay in this team as long as it is possible. After my career, I wish to live in Munich with my family.”
Asked whether he likes staying in Munich because he is more respected there than in France, he says:
“I don’t know why that is so. Earlier I had some problems, but now I also have good support from France. I would not talk about these things. I will stay in Munich because my family enjoys here.”
Ribery will play with France in November in a playoff game against Ukraine for a place in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
“Those will be difficult and complicated games. I will play without pressure.” He adds: “If I don’t go to Mundial hardly that I can count on winning the Ballon d’Or,” he says.
He sees Germany as the top contender for the World Cup title.
“Germans have everything. Team spirit and great players. Continuously, they make good results,” Ribery says but points to a difficult challenge ahead with many other powerful rivals such as France.
“I have more experience now. I won the Champions League, and the World Cup remains for me. That is my dream,” he says.
He also comments on the historic berth Bosnia and Herzegovina clinched in the World Cup.
“BiH representation is determined and deserved to be placed in the World Cup.”
Ribery spent 6 months with the Turkish side Galatasaray appearing in 14 games with one goal.
“Playing in Galatasaray when I was 21 was a good choice for me. I stayed there 6 months, and I have good and unforgettable memories of Istanbul. Great city and phenomenal fans. I felt like a king in Turkey. Everyone loved me. I played with Hakan Sukur, great star and one of Galatasaray’s legends.”