Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Chelsea FC's Willian is driven by faith, says 'God comes first'

Willian Borges da Silva, better known as Willian, is in his seventh season with Chelsea F.C. in the English Premier League and 14th as a professional soccer player. His career started in his native Brazil and featured stops in Ukraine and Russia before ending up in London. Willian spent his youth career with Brazilian club Corinthians and played one season with its first team before moving to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.

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Though he grew up in the Catholic church, it was during his time in Ukraine that Willian started to truly understand the Bible. He accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized with his wife while playing for Shakhtar in Donetsk, Ukraine.

“People think that footballers are money-grabbers, party animals, all about women,” Willian said in a recent Players’ Tribune video. “To me, God comes first, ahead of everything else.” He reiterates his faith to his 9 million followers on Instagram, where his bio reads, “I belong to Jesus.”

In August 2013, he joined Chelsea and made his debut on Sept. 18 in a Champions League match against FC Basel. Since then, Willian has produced 32 goals and 30 assists in 223 Premier League appearances for the club, helping guide Chelsea to two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a Europa League title.

He attends Cathedral International church in London on Thursdays and Sundays when the team’s schedule allows. Being in church helps him navigate the pressure that comes with playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“[Church] helps me a lot, in all aspects,” Willian said. “We know, mainly in football, that one day you are the best player and on another day, you are nobody. So the faith helps me keep a balance and helps me to not allow the compliments to go to my head, to think that I am the man. At the same time, the criticism will not knock me down. It is key to have this balance because without it you can sink one way or another.”

This season, Willian has four goals and four assists in 25 Premier League appearances. Chelsea currently sits in fourth place with 12 games remaining. The Blues face Tottenham on Saturday before they host Bayern Munich for the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 on Feb. 25.

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