An email conversation with Linvoy Primus: 'It helps that God's spirit is running through the club'

How faith fuels rise up Premier League; Working for charity at home and away; Inviting Jesus and Hitler to dinner
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Portsmouth's strong start suggests the best season for decades could be on the cards: what's the minimum expectation now? A top-10 finish was always our aim, and reaching that level for two seasons running would enable the club to be recognised as fully established. That makes it easier to attract a different calibre of player. We have never looked any further than that this season – two seasons ago we were fighting for our lives.

You have not been involved much this season, because of injury. When will you be back? The injury to my knee has taken a lot longer to heal and has been more complicated than anyone expected so I can't give a time for a return. I'm back in full training, and I would hope to be involved in the squad by Christmas.

You have published your autobiography, in which your faith is the central theme. You write about a prayer group at the club – to what extent has religion helped Pompey in the last few seasons? It has helped in a big way in that God's spirit is still running through the club and that has attracted players of faith. I don't believe it's a coincidence that the club's form has improved markedly and that success has brought prosperity to the city. Obviously when the club does well it brings not only increased revenue to the area but a joy and a lifting of the spirits.

What perspective does your charity work at home and abroad give you on life as a footballer? It keeps me grounded and humble. Whether it's during my work in and around Portsmouth or during missions abroad I truly realise how important it is to be a positive role model to young and old, rich and poor alike. Having travelled to Africa and India to visit orphanages and hospitals, seeing abandoned, orphaned or disabled children living in such poverty makes you appreciate the things we take for granted, even merely having a roof over your head.

You've taken stick for your belief in faith healing, for speaking in tongues and the like. A fellow "defender of the faith", Raith Rovers' Marvin Andrews, was also criticised for saying the Bible says homosexuality "is an abomination to God". Do you agree? Will we see a gay top-flight footballer in Britain in your lifetime? God says we should love everybody and not to judge anybody. That's what I try to do. Only God has the right to judge. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of an openly gay footballer in Britain but only God knows the future.

The book is a frank account of a life plagued by self-doubt. Do you worry what you'll do next? I often wonder, but I don't worry. I believe God has a plan for my life. I know a big part of my life will revolve around the work of my charity, Faith and Football, which is firmly established in Portsmouth, Birmingham and overseas. Whatever I do, whether by word or deed, will be for the glory of God.

What was the worst scrape you got into when using drugs or alcohol as a younger player? And given that you became a successful Premier League player, how could you advise others not to follow the same behaviour? Drink and drugs were never a big part of my life so I never got into any scrapes, as such. I didn't enjoy taking drugs, so it was a relatively short-lived indulgence, no more than a period of experimentation. For any young player I would say the risk to your career is just too great, even more so nowadays with so much to lose given the potential rewards.

You are frankly self-critical in the book. At one point you are happy your wages are up to £500 a week but not long afterwards you are bitter to get only £2,100 a week. Is greed relative to your environment? I suppose anyone is bound to compare their rewards with those of other people with the same ability in the same industry. At the times you mention I was searching for happiness and thought more money was the key. I was bitter and felt I was worth more than the club valued me and that players of lesser ability were being better rewarded. My faith has since taught me money can't buy happiness; only having a serving heart can bring more joy and peace than money can bring.

Do you see any moral dilemma in footballers earning tens of thousands a week while ticket prices go up and poorer fans are priced out? (Not to mention the world's many other inequalities). It's sad poorer fans are being priced out of the game but I'm not sure there is a moral question involved. Football is an industry and is dictated by market forces. There is even more quality and entertainment on offer these days and if you want to see the very best players perform then ticket prices must reflect the cost of hiring such players.

If the manager asked you to pick a defender, midfielder and striker to buy in January, cost and availability no object, who would you recommend? The defender would be Ferreira Lucio at Bayern Munich; the midfielder another Brazilian, Milan's Kaka; the striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Which sporting event would you pay most to see? I don't watch a lot of sport, other than the odd bit of cricket, but I would pay to see the Olympic 100 metre final.

You can have a dinner party for six guests from history? Who, and why? Top of my table would be Jesus, just to be in his presence. Then the centurion who was with Jesus at the cross, to hear what made him realise and admit that he had encountered the Son of God. Martin Luther King to learn how he could still love the people who had abused him and tried to kill his family. Noah to enquire what his thoughts were while building the ark over 100 years during which time there was no rain. Adam to ask what drove him to take a bite of that apple. Hitler to question him as to what made him want to kill all the Jews.

Attachment

* Name Linvoy Primus

* Born Forest Gate, London, 14 September 1973

* Position Centre-half, right-back

* Clubs Charlton (1992-94); Barnet (94-97); Reading (97-2000); Portsmouth (2000-07)

* At Portsmouth Began with an own goal at Sheffield United; then injured for six months, then struggled to get into Graham Rix's side. Under Harry Redknapp injuries and suspensions gave him a run in 2002-03, ending in promotion and the fans' player of the year award

* God on his side Credits his rise to adoption of Christianity; heavily involved with the Faith and Football charity

Transformed: Football, Faith and Me, by Linvoy Primus, £18.99. www.legendarypublishing.co.uk

Comments