Ghana midfielder Christian Atsu has opened up about his religion and how he got closer to God at a tender age.
The 26-year-old, who joined Premier League side Newcastle United from Chelsea last season, says his former pastor scolded him for being inconsistent with church attendance and although, he felt bad at that time, it has shaped his life and faith in God.
“One day, I went to church. If I went to church one Sunday, then the next Sunday maybe I would not go. At this time I was not even 16 years old. Then the pastor told my mum something. I was very young, but what he said was very painful to me,” Atsu told nufc.co.uk.
"He said if you are this age and you don’t know what is good or bad, then maybe you will not grow again.
“I took this as a bad comment, but for me, I think it was a good thing. I realised that ‘he has seen me as a grown man. I can make a decision’. It’s what you are doing, what you believe in, how you think. I felt that what you can go through can help you become a man quickly.”
Atsu also revealed that his father's last advice to him before passing on was to be closer to God and be charitable to humanity. He was only 12 by then.
“When my father died, I was at the academy. My brother told me after his death that we, his children, should worship God and nothing more on this earth," he said.
“The last words from my father were so strong. His words were so strong to me: that I needed to do more for humanity – worshipping God and doing more for humanity.
“As far as I’m concerned, God brings people into our life to help us move forward. This is what has been happening to me. I’ve been praying to God to bring people into my life to help me move forward, and it has been happening to me. Even in my worst times, I got to know good people who try to help me move forward,” he added.
Atsu currently attends Hillsong Church in Newcastle with teammates De Andre Yedlin and Rolando Aarons.
“But I have to sing, I have to sing! I cannot be shy in the house of God. Maybe, I can be shy outside, but not inside.
“I’m here to worship God. I want to live a free life, I want to live the way I want, you understand? In the house of God, I’m normal. Even outside, I want to be normal, to be able to do what I want, not to live like a celebrity. That’s something you can add to it, but I don’t want to add that to it. I want to live a normal life. When I’m like that, I think I’m free.”
Atsu has made 21 league appearances this season for the Magpies, scoring two goals.