Oscar Ewolo could not be called a star of world football but he has had a good career, playing professionally in France for thirteen seasons. He is also captain of his country, the Republic of Congo.
Two highlights stand out in his career playing in the French Cup Final and in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. In 2001 Oscar was playing for Amiens in the National Division One – two leagues down from the French Football League. Against all the odds Amiens reached the French Cup Final.
“That is my best football memory – playing in the Stade de France against Strasbourg in the French Cup Final with 78,000 spectators watching. It was a great memory. We surprised everyone by reaching the final. There were great celebrations in the city. We lost. We were really disappointed but many players never have the chance to play in a cup final so it was a great memory”.
The final itself could not have been closer. There were no goals in the game and still 0-0 after an extra 30 minutes. In the end Strasbourg won in a penalty shoot-out 4-5.
The Republic of Congo is a small country with a population of only 4 million. They have only ever reached the final stages of the Africa Cup of Nations – in 2000 – and Oscar was in the team.
Born in Congo in 1978 Oscar Ewolo and his family went to France when he was 4. Life was good. They sometimes went to church but it was not really important. When Oscar was 14 everything changed; his father died. The family found different ways of coping – drink was one.
One day the family had a visitor who explained that there was still hope and that Jesus could help even in the worst of situations. Mrs. Ewolo was skeptical but she started to read the Bible and gradually a faith developed and she began to trust God. Oscar recalls: “She changed completely! I had no idea what had happened in her life but she was just different. When I came home late at night from a night club, the light would be on in her room – she was praying”. Oscar had, however, no interest in God. On the last day of 1998 that was to change.
“I decided to end the year by going to church. On the way I met a group of friends on their way to a club. I really wanted to go with them but I had decided to go to church and I stuck to my resolve. That night at church I was really struck by the way the people loved each other. They loved life! The sermon also spoke to me. He said that God had a plan for all of us and he wanted to give us the means of achieving it. He challenged me to open the Bible. I understood that if I took a step towards God, he would help to accomplish what he wanted for my life.
“Starting the next day I gave up my old life of women, clubs, everything that I was chasing to give me a little extra in life. I had found something better – love all around me. I gave my life to God and it changed for the better in all areas. I wouldn’t say it was easy but when difficulties came, God was there and I knew I could count on him.
The difference Jesus has made in my life is enormous. He enables me to be a different person. I often say that we are called to live with difficulties because difficult times are part of life as people who know Jesus; we know we have something that will bring us through the difficulties.