German footballer Robert Bauer confirms conversion to Islam
Social media users have praised German footballer Robert Bauer after he confirmed converting to Islam in a series of Instagram posts.
The defender, currently signed with Saudi Arabian club Al-Tai FC, posted a photo of himself praying and disclosed that he became Muslim through his wife and her family's influence.
On his Instagram stories, he also posted, "Guide us to the straight path from Surah al-Fatiha," while another post shared a verse of the Quran saying, "and he is with you wherever you are." (Quran 57:4)
After receiving an outpouring of support on social media, Bauer thanked everyone and then explained his journey to embracing Islam.
Bauer was born in Germany in 1994 to Christian Kazakhstani parents. He met his Muslim wife in Dubai.
"I said my shahada many years ago when we got married but didn't really know much about it," said Bauer on his Instagram.
"Over the years, I learnt more and more but now, after coming to Saudi I feel the warmth of Islam and wanted to say my shahada again, read the Quran and learn and practice.
"I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the love and support I'm receiving and am excited to learn and grow."
The 28-year-old started his career in Karlsruher SC, before moving to Bundesliga first-tier team Werder Bremen in 2016 and then on loan to FC Nurnberg two years later. He also played for Russian and Belgian leagues before moving to Saudi.
Bauer played for Germany at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand and was a member of the German squad that won the silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The rise of the Saudi league
The Saudi league has taken the footballing world by storm, attracting major Muslim and non-Muslim players.
Portuguese superstar Ronaldo started the trend, and recently, Brazilian star Neymar also joined.
Several other high-profile players have followed suit, including Premier League stars like Roberto Firmino, Aymeric Laporte, Jordan Henderson and Ruben Neves.
Muslim footballers like Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante have also signed with Saudi teams this year.
Huge salaries are obviously an attraction, but for Muslim players with young families, the chance to experience and live in a Muslim country is also a factor.
When Benzema joined Al-Ittihad, he was asked why he joined the Saudi club. "Well because I am Muslim and it's a Muslim country. I've always wanted to live there,' he said.
"[The move] will allow me to have a new life. I would like to learn Arabic and speak fluently.
"I've already been to Saudi Arabia, Mecca is very close and as a believer it's important for me. This is where I will feel at my best and in my element."
A month after joining the club, Benzema took the opportunity to perform Hajj. A video showed him wearing the white ihram and performing Tawaf, adding "Alhamdulillah.".
Sadio Mane, who joined Al Nassr, also performed the Umrah just hours after his debut for the Saudi club in August. He was joined by some of his Muslim teammates, including Seko Fofana, the former RC Lens captain.
Image credit: Robert Bauer Instagram