WELLINGTON – Preparing for world cup, a New Zealand rugby Muslim star has said that Islam has made him a new man after a successful spell playing union where he won the World Cup with the All Blacks.
“I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without my faith,” New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams said in a BBC video.
Four years in union, including a World Cup win, six professional victories as a boxer, William’s conversion to Islam have seen him return to league a new man.
“I think I’ve become a better person. When I play, I play well,” Williams said.
“I get a lot of love, a lot of respect,” he added.
New Zealand are looking to retain the title they won in 2008, with Williams seeking to become the first player to win a World Cup in both codes of the game.
Born in 1985, Williams a top-notch rugby star in New Zealand.
He reverted to Islam in 2008 after attending prayer services at a Sydney mosque.
The superstar is the first Muslim to play for the All Blacks rugby team.
Williams’ younger sister Niall Williams is a New Zealand international touch football player, and won gold at the Youth World Cup in 2005 and silver at the 2011 Touch Football World Cup.
“Islam has given me happiness. I don’t go around preaching or anything. It is like something that’s just with me,” Williams said in another video posted on YouTube.
“What it has done for me on my inside I can’t really explain. But obviously it’s helped with my footy, cause I don’t drink or anything like that anymore and I try to live a lot cleaner lifestyle and things like that, but essentially it’s just made me a lot happier.”
Turning from league’s most hated player, New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney said that international rugby league fans will see a new player.
“He’s been fantastic. He’s been really good,” Kearney said of the 28-year-old, who won the NRL with the Sydney Roosters, told 3News website.
“He’s light years away from where he has. He was always a special talent but he’s five years on, wiser and more mature. He’s different.
“He has got to know himself. He’s measured himself, he’s grown and is a man now. We all need time to do that. At the time he was a 22-year-old, a big fish in the pond and some of us don’t handle that.”
The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to 36,000 Muslims, according to the 2006 census.