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Interview with Momo Sissoko by Shakir Ahmed

Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko chats to journalist Shakir Ahmed about religion and football…

How old were you when you started playing football?

I was seven years of age when I started playing football, and when I was 14 I started taking the sport more seriously.

How did you start your career?

I started playing in small local French teams; nothing big, just normal. I started playing for a club, like kids do, then I was spotted by the coach of Auxerre, who came to my house and asked if I'd like to play for Auxerre. I said of-course - for me this was very exciting and I was very happy.

What kind of support did you get from your parents and family?

My parents never had any problems with me playing football, they were very happy and encouraged me to play.

You were not heard of until you signed for Liverpool FC, what was your first reaction when Liverpool were interested?

Yeah, for sure I was not heard of, and then I hear Liverpool FC are interested! This was a dream come true for me, to play for one of the biggest club in the world. It was an honour, I was delighted, excited and very happy.

You are a big role model for young kids, especially Muslim youths. What advice would you give to a Muslim youngster and their parents thinking of entering the game?

I think it is good for more Muslim players to come and play the game, it is good for me to see more Muslim players. I think it is a good game but you really need to work hard, and also, education is very important in life and religion.

There are a few international Muslim players, but no English-born Muslim or Asian stars in the game. Would you like to see more English Muslim players?

I would encourage more Muslim players, especially British-born youngsters, to play the game. I am sure there is talent out there and I believe that international Muslim players can play a key part in making this happen.

Do you get chance to socialise with other international Muslim stars?

I do get chance but not all that much because of games. When I do, I spend time with my brother Ibrahim, who plays for West Bromwich Albion. Also with other players like Frederic Kanoute.

Overall, how are you settling in at Liverpool/England, and what kind of reaction have you received from the fans?

The fans have been great, they have made me feel really welcome. England is a very good country to live in, a bit cold but it is enjoyable playing here. I am privileged to play with great names like Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and others in my team.

How much does your religion play a part in shaping your game, for example, discipline, diet etc?

Being a Muslim to me is very important. I thank God every day that I have been given this opportunity to play at the highest level. Islam gives me the right discipline and strength, which makes me respect what I put inside my body.

Do you get the chance to do your daily prayers?

It is very important to do your daily prayers before the game and after. I make sure I do my namaz (prayers), it makes me happy when I pray. I feel a one-to-one contact with God and it gives me belief that someone is looking out for me.

What is Ramadhan like for you; how do you celebrate the month and Eid?

Ramadhan is so very important in all our lives. From the start my parents made sure of this. It has been difficult in the last four years, as I have not had chance to celebrate it with my parents, but I have had my wife and cousin who have been here and also now Ibrahim, my brother. I make sure I fast in the month, it is only in emergency I might not, but in a normal situation I do. It is difficult but now I am used to it. It is a very blessed month.

Thank you very much for taking time to speak to us in your busy schedule.

No, thank you very much for interviewing me.

Thanks to Shakir Ahmed of awaaznews.com

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