In England, countless boys dream of playing Premier League football and winning a FIFA World Cup trophy for the country that founded the sport’s oldest clubs. For John Bostock, the dream of a professional football career became a nightmare that only God could help him conquer.
At the tender age of 15, Bostock was a football prodigy who became the youngest player to ever start in a game for the Crystal Palace Football Club based in Selhurst London, England. Born and raised in London, Bostock grew up as a Crystal Palace fan whose family got season tickets to the game.
Playing for the team at such a young age seemed like the perfect plot from a movie. However, it wasn’t long before Bostock was cast as the villain in England’s national football headlines.
In 2008 at age 16, Bostock upset Crystal Palace and its fans when he transferred to Tottenham Hotspur based in the Tottenham section of London. In an interview with Rapzilla, Bostock recalled the abuse that he suffered after being blasted by hardcore Palace fans.
However, the footballer said that the Bible helped him get through those trials as a teenager.
“I moved to Spurs at the age of 16 and received a lot of abuse to the point where fans were sending me death threats. No one prepares you for that but it was around the same time that I got grounded in faith, so spending time in His presence and allowing my mind to be renewed by the Word was my coping mechanism,” Bostock told Rapzilla. “Somehow He brought me through that period with a smile on my face and without bitterness towards any of my critics but it wasn’t easy at all.”
While Bostock looks back at the persecution that he suffered as something that has strengthened his faith, the trials in his football career did not end with him moving to the Spurs. After debuting as the youngest player to compete for the Spurs at the age of 16 in 2008, his time playing for the team while on contract was limited.
From 2009 to 2013, Bostock played for numerous clubs on loan before officially being released from the Premier League’s Spurs in 2013. Looking back at the early years of his career where he went from being sought after to passed over, Bostock admits that he made an idol out of the sport that Americans refer to as soccer.
“Honestly football was an idol in my life that needed to be dealt with. I pinned my hope and identity on how I performed so God allowed me to go through some serious disappointments,” he said. “As an athlete, you can be celebrated by the fans and media yet still be displeasing in the eye of God. I’ve learned that if God is the priority in my life and I’m trying to honor Him in every area then everything else will fall into place.”
The husband and father of a two-year-old son remembers his confidence in football being so low around 2012 that he thought about ending his football career to pursue full-time ministry. Bostock revealed God’s response to him.
“God quickly replied and told me that, ‘if you’re not in football then how will they hear about me,’” he said. “‘You are in this game for Me, not you John.’”
While he attended online Bible school at the Christian Leaders Institute, Bostock became fulfilled in his purpose when he created the Ballers In God (BIG) movement in 2015. Since it can be difficult for football players to stay connected to their faith when traveling so much, Bostock created a platform where players can study the Bible together online each week and evangelize to one another.
The group that prays for and supports one another hopes to invite the public to join them in the near future while partnering with other charities and ministries. Although Bostock doesn’t know if he will be called to become a pastor when his football career ends one day, he has happily taken on the role of what he refers to as a “footballing missionary.”
“In no way am I saying that I’m the only Christian that God wants to use in the world of football but God has a specific assignment that He wants me to pursue. There are people and teammates that might never be around another believer,” he told Rapzilla. “Pastors and missionaries don’t have the access that I have so I need to take advantage of the platform I’ve been given. So when I started to see the way that BIG impacted the lives of players around me it became clear that this is one of the reasons why I’m still in the game.”
Last year, Bostock received more confirmation that life was bigger than football when a drunk driver hit him in a car accident that could have taken his life. Instead, the footballer was able to walk away from the traumatic incident with a renewed sense of purpose.
“Honestly God saved me in that crash. I think if I could’ve seen the spiritual realm for just one second in that moment I would have seen God’s Angels guarding me from harm,” Bostock said. “It has served as great testimony to all my family that God is real and has further reminded me that life is precious and no one is promised tomorrow. There is a reason why I didn’t die in that crash, the Lord has plenty of work for me to do before He calls me home.”
At 26, Bostock has had a colorful professional football career where he has played for 12 clubs in 10 years. In July he signed a three-year contract with Toulouse FC which Bostock couldn’t be more happy about.
Aside from football, ministry, and family, music is also a huge part of Bostock’s life. As a fan of Rapzilla and the Christian Hip Hop community since 2007, he named Timothy Brindle, Shai Linne, Eshon Burgundy, Sevin, Thi’sl, Bizzle, Dwayne Tryumf, and his close friend UK artist A Star as his favorites.
Although football is no longer an idol for Bostock, that doesn’t mean he can’t still dream about playing on the big World Cup stage one day. The recipient of the 2017 Ligue 2 Player of the Year award believes he will play in the FIFA World Cup one day and use it as a platform to spread the Gospel of Christ.
“Not many players get the chance to perform on the world’s biggest stage but I’d love to play in the World Cup. It’s important to have goals and go after your dreams,” he said. “Plus I know that the higher the level I play the further the Gospel can go. For now, I will keep working and trusting that all things are possible with God.”
He went on to add, “but I’m all for claiming the next platform for Jesus!”