Friday, October 22, 2021

'I'm not here without him': Farai Mutatu's relationship with religion and Spartan soccer

October 12, 2021
<p>Senior forward Farai Mutatu points to the sky during his pre-game ritual on Sept. 21, 2021.</p>

Senior forward Farai Mutatu points to the sky during his pre-game ritual on Sept. 21, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Michigan State soccer senior forward Farai Mutatu’s life has been far from the cookie-cutter,  white-picket-fence version.

When Mutatu was about 6 years old, his father was offered the opportunity to pursue a chemistry degree at MSU.

This meant Mutatu had to move away from his home, from what he knew and was comfortable with and brace himself for the unforeseen. In 2006, the Mutatus made their way from Zimbabwe to Haslett, Michigan. Being a family with four young children, this was difficult.

"When we got here ... the community was super welcoming," Mutatu said. "We made a lot of good friends and connections that we still hold today. The community is also kind of how and why I started playing soccer. We became locals fast."

Eight years later in 2014, things changed again. This time, Mutatu’s parents were forced to return to Zimbabwe for reasons out of their control. 

Mutatu has not seen them since. Now in the states, he only has his two older brothers — who are married with families of their own — and his younger sister who is studying mechanical engineering at Notre Dame. 

Much like the apostle Peter, who trusted Jesus Christ enough to walk on water in the Gospel of Matthew, Mutatu has put his trust in Jesus Christ enough to stay in the states on his own and living out the opportunities his parents had originally intended for him.

"It was difficult, because I felt like I needed to grow up really fast at that age," Mutatu said. "I'm thankful that I had soccer because, in a way, it kept me distracted ... and gave me something to pursue and work hard towards. I was motivated ... and there's obviously pros and cons to that mentally. As you get older, you look back (at different traumas) and ... you're like, 'OK, how did this affect me?'"

Mutatu's faith is the biggest part of his life. Growing up in a Christian household, Farai said he was taught from the get-go to "love the Lord and all he does for his life on this Earth." Faith has kept him grounded, and he made it something of his own since coming to college, using it to deal with missing his parents or losing a highly anticipated soccer game.

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Before every game, Mutatu takes a minute to close his eyes and point up to the Heavens. To him, it serves as a reminder of who he is and how good God is to him.

"I'm not here without him," Mutatu said. "Everything that I could have ever have, want and need has been given to me. I play out of gratefulness for what Jesus has already done for me."

"I've learned this principle through action and people that have disciplined and mentored me, it's a concept of an audience of one," Mutatu said. "So, when I step out on the field, I'm not playing for anything or anyone besides God. That gives me freedom and confidence. It gives me my drive and motivation to play. It's really a symbol to say, 'Hey, this is for God.'"

Religion is more important to most of the Spartan soccer team than some might realize. Although Michigan State Head Coach Damon Rensing makes it a point that religion is an individual choice and it's great that guys like Mutatu have that under their belt to motivate them, Farai said they often attend pregame chapel to pray as a group.

Longtime best friend of Mutatu, senior midfielder Jack Beck, said the journey of growing with Mutatu in the name of the Lord has been a blessing. He also appreciates how the team has grown in their faith.

"Iron sharpens iron," Beck said. "He's very outgoing about his faith, and it's something we've gone through together. There's been times where I've fallen, and he's picked me back up and vice versa. Faith is the most important thing in both of our lives. We play and we fight for something bigger. It's not our performance that determines who we are, but it's something God tells us we are."

Mutatu said he thinks religion is about who you are and what you want to build your life around as a whole. This fact alone reflects as a common theme for a lot of the guys on the team, connecting them deeper, physically, mentally and emotionally.

"It's changed our lives," Beck said. 

"It's bigger than just soccer," Mutatu said.

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This story is a part of our Oct. 12 print edition. View the full issue here.

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