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11th Nov 2016

Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi says his Muslim faith has helped him “a lot”

The Arsenal man has embraced religion throughout his career

Tom Victor

Plenty of top footballers have credited religion for helping them with aspects of their development, whatever their faith.

Indeed some, such as former Manchester United youngster Phil Mulryne, have embarked upon a religious path after hanging up their boots.

It’s not just Christian players for whom religion plays a big role, however – there are a number of Muslim players in the Premier League (and players of other faiths) who balance worship with football.

One of these players, Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi, has spoken of how reading the Qur’an and praying have helped him in his personal and career development.

Germany v Ukraine - Group C: UEFA Euro 2016Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Mustafi, a German international born to Albanian Muslim parents, told how he was born into a religious family and embraced his faith after an encounter with teammates at his first club, Everton.

“It started when I was 17 at Everton and I went out with my team-mates and everyone knew me as the German because I was playing for Germany. ‘You’re German, how is it possible that you’re not drinking?'” Mustafi explained.

“I said, ‘No, I’m Muslim and I’m not drinking’ and he asked me, ‘Why are you Muslim?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, my parents are Muslim and I grew up in a Muslim family’.

“Then I got home and thought that was a good question, because I’d never asked myself. It’s something that your parents teach you but you never know whether it’s good, bad, why am I not drinking, why am I not eating pork, why do I have to pray five times a day.

“I started to read the Qur’an and asking them questions – ‘what is the thinking behind that?’ – and it became more and more interesting. It’s helped me a lot.”

Germany - Training & Press ConferenceAlexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Mustafi played just once for Everton before David Moyes let him leave for Sampdoria, and he also spent two seasons in Spain with Valencia before returning to England with the Gunners in August.

And the 24-year-old, who scored his first international goal at Euro 2016, revealed how his strong system of beliefs has helped him in his career.

He said: “Religion is the same in football; if you’re not believing in what you’re doing, then it’s useless because you’re going to be bad.”

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