A former Iranian footballer will be ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England Diocese of Durham in Durham Cathedral on the 30th June 2018.
For Pouya Heidari, 33, who will serve his curacy at Bishopwearmouth St Gabriel in Sunderland, this something that is a far cry from what was a promising professional football career in his native Iran. Pouya fled the country at the age of 24 following his conversion to Christianity.
Pouya said: “I was born in a place that enforced religion on people, so sports and especially football was my way to find an escape. I left my home, country by becoming a professional footballer. Naturally, ordination or even Christian faith wasn’t something I ever considered at the time.
“But then I met Jesus who transformed my life and my journey as a follower of Christ began. In the meantime, I had returned to my hometown and naturally had to share my discovery of Jesus with the people around me.
“The next step came almost as I started to enjoy working with mission organisations like YWAM and Elam Ministries with whom I helped to plant, expand and assist churches in their growth.
“On one of my mission trips to Bermuda I came across an Anglican church; its vicar, who is now the current Bishop of Bermuda, really challenged my ideas and presumptions about priesthood and providing pastorally for one church while being settled long-term.
“In the following years I had the honour to get to know and work with more Anglican ministers across the North East and West Yorkshire which helped to transform my understanding and the occasional question about ordination crept up and kept me thinking about my future involvement in discipleship and mission.”
Pouya says he used to train with Peykan Tehran (in the Iranian Premiership) and played in the under 23 side for Mersad – he commented that he would like to think that he would have made the national team, but God had other plans for him.
Pouya said that he hopes to be instrumental in the formation of the first Church of England football team during his curacy – something that will tie two essential strands of his life ever closer together.
Pouya and Wife Debora are expecting their first Child around the date of the ordinations.