Ex-Sunderland player spreads the Christian message through football

Maurice Hepworth

Maurice Hepworth

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FORMER Sunderland footballer Maurice Hepworth is helping to bring on the next generation of superstars – while spreading the message about faith.

Maurice, who played first team football for Sunderland at the age of 17, will be holding weekend soccer sessions at St George’s Church, in Fatfield, Washington, starting tomorrow.

The sessions taken by Maurice, a Christian, are called Faith in Football and have been developed with St George’s.

Maurice, who has worked for Sunderland, Middlesbrough and the Premier League on youth academies, said: “A lot of football skills can be related to everyday life skills for kids and parents. I wanted to bring that to the community, things such as humility, teamwork, leadership and reputation management, the things we want to get right and all the things which Jesus teaches us. I want to bring it alive.”

Maurice was in Sunderland’s squad in their cup-winning year of 1973, but just a week before the FA Cup final was kicked in the stomach during a game.

For two weeks he was left fighting for his life with near-fatal internal injuries and, although he recovered, it drew a premature curtain on his time with Sunderland and opened the door for a career in South Africa.

After playing for Arcadia Shepherds and being named South African Player of the Year in 1977, injury ended his career for good and he built up a successful career within the world of business.

In February 2010, he decided to develop m.h Coaching & Leadership and is now managing director of the company.

He said his road to Christian faith began as he recovered from his broken leg in South Africa.

He said: “Although it was not my conversion moment, the serious injury was a signpost to meeting Jesus. My faith is the number one thing in my life now.”

Maurice said he relates to Tottenham player Fabrice Muamba, whose heart stopped on the field during the game and who subsequently retired on health grounds.

Maurice said: “I often ask what the two of us have in common and it’s that we both nearly died on the pitch and we both have a strong faith.”

l Places on the course can be booked on 415 4200.