Reggae Boy Harding preaches love of football and ChristFriday, June 11, 2021
By Sean A Williams
NAGOYA, Japan — Wesley “Wes” Harding has many passions in life.
But no two are as consuming as the love he has for his Christian faith, and yes, football.
The Rotherham United defender credits all his successes in life to his unwavering commitment to the work of Jesus Christ, using every opportunity, he claims, to spread the good Word.
Professional football and the Church can be an unholy marriage, but the 24-year-old Harding has managed to keep the flames of his two dearest loves burning.
“The football world is not set up the way we do things in Christ, and I have to be firm in my faith and be a beacon and a representative of Jesus Christ and I enjoy it. But I do love football and I do love Christ,” he told the Jamaica Observer recently.
Harding, who also played for Birmingham City, said in his darkest hours, in personal life or career, his rigid faith in the Messiah has seen him through.
“Christ has carried me 100 per cent in my career, especially those times when things didn't look promising,” he shared.
Harding, who is a newcomer to the Reggae Boyz fold and who is with his new teammates in Japan for two friendly internationals, says he has used every opportunity at his clubs — past and present — to deliver the gospel.
Harding, a strapping defender, is a man on a mission to not only win games, but souls.
“I have ministered many times at the club I am at and the one before. Here [with the Reggae Boyz], I like it because we pray before training and games. But since I have been here, I have spoken to one or two of the boys,” he confessed.
In Monday's 1-1 draw with Serbia in Kobe, Harding had his dream debut for Jamaica, and so good was the feeling that he's “hungry for more”.
He gave the team's performance a passing grade and was so confident in his own efforts on the day that he marked himself favourably.
“I think it was a very good game and a very good performance by the team, a very controlled performance, and I thought we handled their threats well.
“Individually, I thought I played well, and I really enjoyed myself stroking the ball around the pitch and also stepping in and defending, which I really like to do,” noted Harding, who was an Aston Villa academy pupil.
His game on Monday and his possible participation in another match on Saturday against Japan's Olympic squad at Toyota Stadium in the seaport city of Nagoya has served to whet the appetite.
“I want to be involved in everything moving forward…when I got my call-up the last time, it was a huge disappointment that I wasn't able to play, that's why what we are doing here was so big for me to come.
“So, yes, everything coming I want to be involved in and I want to be at the World Cup next year,” said Harding with a tone of excitement.
The Leicester native was invited and travelled with the Boyz to Austria for a friendly match against the USA last March but had to return to England prematurely.
“Those COVID complications over in Austria is the reason I was not able to play, but I think that spurred me on for this [being with Boyz]. I am a believer and I know that the Lord had a plan for me,” said Harding.
The 5ft 11in player says he is still waiting on divine intervention to fulfil a boyhood dream.
“I see myself in a couple of years at Arsenal as that's my dream club. I want to be where I can fight for the highest titles,” Harding beamed.
He qualifies to represent Jamaica through his grandparents, claiming that “my dad's dad is from Hanover and my mom's side is from Clarendon”.
But it's been a while since he visited the island but says a visit could be in the pipeline in short order, especially that his prayer to represent his ancestral home at football has been answered.
“I have been to Jamaica two or three times, but I have not been back recently, but I am looking to go back soon,” he noted.
Harding says he's a big fan of traditional Jamaican dishes, and when asked to pick a favourite, he got super excited.
“It has to be ackee and saltfish, 'It a di bes,' ” he said, breaking from his polished Midlands accent to Jamaican patois.
“I like it [ackee and saltfish] with plantains, hard dough bread, and maybe fried dumplings. I also like callaloo, and if I can't have any of them for breakfast, then I will have them for lunch,” Harding said.
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