Big Interview - Barnsley FC defender Bobby Hassell - February 2012
Matthew Murray talks to Barnsley FC’s Bobby Hassell about the difference his Christian faith makes in the competitive world of Championship football
He’s played against the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, but for footballer Bobby Hassell, the greatest honour is knowing Jesus.
The Barnsley full-back, who has played almost 300 appearances for the Championship outfit, has seen two promotions, a play-off final, a Wembley FA Cup semi-final and two appearances at the Millennium Stadium during an impressive and consistent career.
The 31-year-old club captain, nicknamed ‘Sir Bobby’ by Reds fans, became a Christian two years ago.
He said: “I have played against Steven Gerrard, Matthew Le Tissier, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, but the real moment for me was when I realised I needed a Saviour – that was when I became a Christian and asked Jesus Christ to be a part of my life.”
When Bobby first joined Barnsley in 2004, he found himself reading the Gospel of Luke after being given a Bible by the club chaplain, Peter Amos. He would also ask many questions about faith and watch DVDs about Christianity.
But Bobby, who is married with two children, didn’t feel ready to make a decision to become a Christian and he shelved spirituality for the best part of five years.
Then one night just before going to bed, he began to ponder life, and despite a fantastic football career and a happy marriage, he felt empty inside – until he prayed.
“I started praying again and reading the Bible again, and six weeks later I told God that if he was real I wanted him to be a part of my life. Two days later the chaplain came into the club and said he was doing a Bible study and I went.
“I began to understand Jesus and realised that being a Christian isn’t about having a boring life but about living life and living it abundantly, as Jesus said. I had sudden peace come over me and I can’t explain the joy and freedom I felt.”
Bobby says things have changed dramatically since becoming a Christian.
“I have always had a horrendous temper and everyone thought I would end up in prison when I was younger. But that aggression went instantly – it had to have been God.”
He is now setting up a ‘Faith and Football’ project in Barnsley, where he hopes youngsters will hear the Gospel through football leagues and coaching sessions.
He said: “We will use football as a tool to preach. God has given me a good name and I want to use that to help spread the message.”
And Bobby’s final advice for anyone thinking about becoming a Christian: do it!
“I can’t prove to anyone that God exists; they need to experience it themselves,” he said.
“If you want to become a Christian you have to have an open mind. I have atheist friends who won’t give God a second thought and think that science is everything. But the only way to prove God is to ask him into your life. You have to experience him for yourself.
“Repentance must be genuine and you must know you need a Saviour. It can’t be a trick to see if God is real. Jesus died on a cross for everyone – so give him a chance!”