13 years after converting to Islam, New Zealand rugby Muslim superstar Sonny Bill Williams has opened up on the party lifestyle he had previously kept largely a secret in his new book, Sonny Bill Williams: You can’t stop the sun from shining.
In the autobiography coming out on October 13, Williams describes how he turned to a life of partying in an effort to hide a shy insecure young man who suddenly shot to fame in the rugby world.
“How is a shy boy supposed to cope with that? That’s not in the script either. And I had no one to guide me,” he says, Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“So I found my own ways to deal with it. By having a smoke before I went out or a couple of sleeping tablets to relax me. I was trying to take the fear away.”
In the new book, Williams hopes to be a role model. He wants younger people to take notice of his mistakes and avoid making the same ones.
Williams converted to Islam in 2008 while playing for Toulon in France after a period in his life where he was “wild”.
As people watched the genuine change in Williams as he completely transformed his life, not everyone accepted that fact that he was becoming a Muslim.
“I turned up to training one day and the coach said to me, ‘you aren’t turning Muslim are you?’,” Williams writes.
“I tried to laugh it off, but then the comments were made about my friends.
“No one had paid attention to my private life before then. No one cared. When I was drinking or partying hard, as long as I was always doing what they needed on the field, and it didn’t make the press. And even then, it was all about damage control, not about my wellbeing. Suddenly, my private life was concerning because of my religion.”
“People were starting to talk about the fact that I was keeping company with Muslims, asking why I was hanging out with ‘those kinds of people’,” he writes.
“‘Those’ as in Muslims. This just brought out the steel in me and raised my hackles. I needed to change for my own happiness, contentment, and to find inner peace, rather than blocking out all that need in the noise of partying.”
In New Zealand, Islam is a minority religious affiliation, as small numbers of Muslim immigrants from South Asia and eastern Europe settled starting from the early 1900s until the 1960s.
The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to 36,000 Muslims, according to the 2006 census.