LONDON: Muslim convert and Manchester United football star Paul Pogba has revealed the reason why he holds the late boxer Muhammad Ali up as one of his heroes — and it was not because of his legendary record in the ring.
The French national team star was responding to a question from Sky Sports asking who his hero was as a child.
The 28-year-old midfielder said: “Muhammad Ali. He was someone that I think kind of saved lives. A hero is somebody that saves lives, that helps people, and I think that is what he did.”
Ali, similar to Pogba, converted to Islam during his sporting career.
“He is a converted man, and I am converted also, so it was very interesting for me to learn about his story.
“I think (Islam) has given me an identity. Sometimes you question your life about everything: Why has this happened to me, why is this, why is that?
“I think Islam has given me this guide, the Qur’an has given me a guide, of how to be and why you are here in life. It opened my eyes more about life, about everything, about important things, more than football and more than sport, not to take things so seriously, that everything is written for you, so your destiny is your destiny, you cannot change that, and you should just enjoy it,” he added.
Pogba said he hoped he could be more like Ali, who changed his name from Cassius Clay when he became a Muslim.
“He saved a lot of people, but not by taking somebody out of the fire, but just by giving a good message, helping the world, saying the truth when it was difficult to say, at a time when it was difficult for black people. He spoke for the black community and helped us to have freedom today.”
The footballer’s mother was a practicing Muslim, but he revealed in 2019 that he was not raised as a Muslim. He later reconnected with the faith after speaking and praying with his Muslim friends.
Islam had made him a “better person,” he added.