Former Premier League footballer, Nathan Ellington speaks on Islam, football and a new foundation he has helped set up
By the will of Allah, Sporty Muslimah brings you a blog post with former Premier League footballer, currently plying his trade with Championship side Ipswich Town, Nathan Ellington.
The blog focuses on Nathan’s thoughts on football, Islam and a new foundation that he has set up.
Nathan Ellington began his career in the non-league at 16 years of age, playing regularly for Tooting & Mitcham United. Having moved to Bristol Rovers several years later, he was part of the team that became the first third division side to beat a Premier League side, winning an FA Cup game against Derby County, where he scored a hat trick in a 3-1 win and subsequently etched his name into the history books, also being a part of the Division 3 Team of the Season in 2001-2002.
Since then, Nathan has played for Wigan Athletic, West Brom, Watford (something with the W’s?) and now at Ipswich Town, with various loan signings in-between.
Apart from making huge strides in football, Nathan has also been on a personal journey since becoming a professional football player. I very much appreciate the time taken to answer a few questions, and an insight into the affectionately known, ‘Duke’.
You can find Nathan Ellington on Twitter: @Nathanellington
Note: Nathan Ellington agreeing to have this interview posted on sportymuslimah.wordpress.com does NOT mean any views expressed by the writer on other posts are endorsed by Nathan Ellington.
Ellington's playing days at Wigan
As a youngster, was a professional footballer the only profession you wanted to be?
Yes, I was so determined to become a football player, I enjoyed every minute of playing with my friends everyday in the park. I would even go on my own in the rain when nobody else wanted to come with me.
I was so confident of my ability that I didn’t even think for a second that I was not going to make it professionally.
What support did you receive from your family on your quest to become a footballer?
Well my mother was the support for me, she always bought me new boots whenever I needed them, she drove me to my games and supported me. She also helped me massively on the mental side of things which I feel is probably most important in this profession.
Do you always set yourself targets before every season or every game?
Yes I always set my self goal targets every season. when I was playing regularly I always set my target to beat the season’s previous goal tally.
What ambitions do you have for Ipswich Town?
My ambitions are to start regularly and score a minimum of 1 in 2 ratio of goals per game. Also want to get promoted this year and play in the premiership for the rest of my career.
Who is the best manager you have played under, and why?
Paul Jewell is probably the best manager during my Wigan days. I enjoyed my best football under him, he helped me with aspects of my game, he played me almost every game which enabled me to get to my peak level o fitness which in turn enabled me to get golden boot in the championship.
(life’s a test! We all take the exam! Food for thought)
Ellington signs for Ipswich Town.
What are your pre-match procedures?
I usually wake up around 9:30am and have breakfast. Then cut my hair before I have a pre match pasta dish. I will then get to the ground for 1:30pm
How did your friends and family react to the news of you reverting to Islam?
They were fine with it to be honest. I did drift apart from my friends. The more I learned and the more things I stopped doing, (going out to bars and clubs mostly) meant I was only going to see my friends less and less.I still see them but not on a weekly basis anymore, it’s more like six monthly. Or on the phone etc.
How do you intertwine your life as a footballer and a Muslim?
It’s pretty easy as you usually get enough time to do the salat. Only during match days it may get a bit tricky especially now when all the prayers are so close together. May have to join sometimes when hard pushed for time. As for eating halal, that’s easy as I just request it and they help me with that. Ramadan is ok at most clubs and different managers have different opinions. Some believe it makes a difference to your performance so they take that into acc when choosing the squads during the month.
Footballers in the UK, have a lot of connotations associated with them regarding their personal lives and free time, how do you spend your free time?
I’m a family man. I hang out with the family near enough all the time. I help my wife with the baby when I get home, take my boy to and from school. Take him to his after-school activities also. I love to play tennis in and take lessons now. The favourite things I like to watch are the football and NBA basketball league . I am still a bit of a kid at heart as I still play on the Playstation every other night for a couple of hours on FIFA, NBA and tennis.
Of course the mosque is regularly visited whenever I get time, and my boy goes to the madrasa at least twice a week. Usually go out for meal with the family once a week.
Tell us about this Muslim Footballers network you have established.
The Association of Muslim Footballers (The AMF) was founded in January 2011 by a group of professionals that included an ex-Premiership footballer who reverted to Islam.
The aim of the AMF is to provide Muslim professional footballers with a support network group, which will provide assistance in their professional & social daily lives. We strive to help footballers and their families overcome challenges they may face within the professional football environment.
The AMF has met with many professional footballers and as a result, we now have a substantial pool of Muslim professional footballers who have endorsed the AMF and are fully supportive of our aims and objectives.
Why are there so few British born and bred Muslim footballers, currently playing professionally?
I thought there were quite a few to be honest. There are many that we don’t know of maybe because thy are not practicing or just keep it to themselves.
Any words of advice for young Muslim footballers who want to make it professionally?
Just make sure Islam comes first. Don’t compromise religion for anything. Know that you can practice freely and not be ashamed to educate everyone on what our needs are. Be it prayer times, halal food.
Not being able to attend Christmas events were alcohol is being served, not celebrating birthdays and Halloween etc. explain why you are not allowed and they will accept and understand.
Therefore you will have a much better relationship with your manager amid teammates. Then you will stand a much better chance of being judged on footballing talents alone.
Words of Wisdom:
“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.”
[Muhammad sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam – al-Haakim, al-Baihaqee: Saheeh]
Quick fire quiz:
Ronaldo or Messi? Messi
La Liga or the Premiership? Premiership
Toughest Player you’ve played against? Distin
Best stadium you’ve played in? Old Trafford
What is your biggest fear? Shirk, since there is no forgiveness for that. Not receiving my book of deeds in my right hand, therefore going to jahanam (hellfire) as for dunya (snake let loose to be able to attack me! Lol.)
Chocolates or sweets? Sweets more
PS3 or XBox? PS3 all the way
Many thanks to Nathan Ellington for taking the time out of his busy professional and personal life to bring some of these answers to us.
May Allah raise his rank, accept his good deeds, and help him to flourish in this world as best as he can.
Truly a wonderful role model for us all. All the best for the rest of the season, and beyond.