Football fans will recognize the name Kanouté immediately. The Franco-Malian Frédéric Oumar Kanouté (his father was Malian) was born and raised in France, where his talent was first spotted. The 34-year-old is currently a striker for Sevilla FC in the Spanish league. Kanouté was named as the African Footballer of the Year in 2007, being the first player born outside of Africa to win the title.
Kanouté is a devoted Muslim, and he reverted to Islam publicly in 1997. He is one of the emerging numbers of talented Muslim footballers who are dominating the international football field. However, despite his hectic schedule, Kanouté is also keenly involved in humanitarian and Islamic community work. Two of which are particularly close to his heart – a charity project in Mali, and closer to his current home, he was instrumental in preserving the community mosque in Seville, where he is now based.
We at HOTD were thrilled when this amazing role model agreed to share some of his thoughts on Islam, football, and of course, Hadith of the Day, with us.
Kanouté on football …
HOTD: What inspired you to become a football player and play for some of the world’s biggest clubs?
Kanouté: I always liked and enjoyed playing football from a young age. My big break came when I started playing for my local team Olympic Lyon (France), and from there opportunities opened up for me to go onto other clubs.
I train rigorously, and whenever it is a match day, I just give it my best on the pitch. The rest of it happened by the will of Allah. He is the one who gave me the physical talent and fitness, and He is the one who opened up the doors for me. I believe nothing happens without Allah’s permission. Everything is planned by Allah, we just have to work hard with the right intention and do the best that we can. However, what has been destined for us will happen, not just in football, but life in general.
HOTD: What’s the secret to being a world class football player?
Kanouté: We need to have some natural ability as a starting point, and then develop those abilities with a lot of hard work, discipline and practice. As I said, if it is destined for you, then Allah will open up the way.
HOTD: What’s the biggest challenge?
Kanouté: To stay grounded. The life of the professional footballer is extremely demanding, physically, time wise and even location wise. The challenge is not to forget the basics, which includes the fundamental principles of Islam and my family life. Juggling all of these so that each component is given its fair share, can be quite challenging.
The other challenge is not to let success go to your head. It is very easy to be dazzled by the fame and publicity and forget about Allah. Being humble and to attributing all our successes to Allah, especially in the face of fame and fortune, is an ongoing trial for anyone.
HOTD: Recently there have been a lot of Muslim footballers in world football, especially in England, like Demba Ba, Kolo & Yahya Toure and Abu Diaby. How hard is it to play football and still practice your faith?
Kanouté: There have been some difficulties. For example, coping with practice during Ramadan and fasting is quite tough, especially in a hot country where intensive training is carried out under the Andalucian sun. At times like this, it can be physically very exerting. However, being a footballer is like any other job, and the observance of faith depends on the person. It can be as easy or difficult as we want it to be, all we need to do is to put in some effort.
Kanouté on charity and humanitarian work …
HOTD: There was an article recently about you buying a mosque in Spain, could you tell us what happened there?
Kanouté: The Muslim community in Seville didn’t have a permanent place of prayer or mosque. They were renting a building but the owner wanted to sell the building after the contract had expired. They would have lost their only place of prayer so they approached me to buy the building. I didn’t set out to build or buy a mosque – but if my actions helped this community with their Islamic needs, I was happy to be of help.
[HOTD’s note – actually, Kanouté quite modestly understated the extent the impact it had on the Muslim community. A spokesman for the Islamic community of Spain said that the worshippers at Ponce De Leon were quite diverse but if it had not been for Kanouté then they would not have had a mosque on Fridays. It is also rumoured that the price paid for the mosque was equal to a year’s salary for Kanouté, which, in any profession, is a large proportion of one’s income.]
HOTD: Please tell us about your charity work in Mali?
Kanouté: My Foundation (Development Trust UK / Fundacion Kanouté) has a flagship project in Mali called the “Sakina Children’s Village”. It is a unique project to care for orphans and vulnerable children in a family environment. The Village Sakina takes care of all their welfare needs, and projects of Sakina include a health centre and school. Both of these projects are open to the local community and villages. We have other projects but this is the main project. Its main objective is the alleviation of poverty through development and job creation, rather than handouts. This will give our beneficiaries the dignity to be breadwinners.
We are currently fundraising for the permanent school building, and if people can help and donate they can do it through the link on www.facebook.com/kanoute or directly through the charity website www.KanouteFoundation.com/donate
HOTD: Where can we read your amazing biography?
Kanoute: At the moment it is only available in Spanish, I plan an English edition soon depending on the interest. So if your followers are interested, they can let me know and we can bring this out quicker! Remember all the profits are going to charity. Spanish readers can buy from: www.editorialgramaticaparda.com
Kanouté on the social media and HOTD …
HOTD: Do you like the idea that Social Media can be used positively when it comes to Islam?
Kanouté: Yes, I really believe that and try to practise that through my own Facebook (www.facebook.com/kanoute) and twitter (www.twitter.com/frederickanoute) accounts. In my case it is not about spreading Islamic knowledge but more being a positive Muslim role model. I try my best to be the best person and Muslim that I can, and hope I make a difference with the help of Allah.
HOTD: Do you use Hadith of the Day? If so, what do you love about it?
Kanouté: It looks like a very good initiative to benefit people and give them reminders about their deen as well as a positive forum for spreading the knowledge of Islam and engaging in healthy discussions about the religion.
HOTD: We have a 2.2 million audience from all over the world. What message would you like to give to them?
Kanouté: Always try your best in whatever you do, stay true to yourself, work hard, be sincere and leave the rest to Allah.