Saido Berahino insists his mission in poverty-stricken Burundi changed his life
SAIDO BERAHINO has shed more than a few tears on his mission to turn heartbreak into hope in his native Burundi.
The Stoke City striker admits he let himself down more than once when he was at West Brom.
Getty Images – Getty Saido Berahino says his work for Burundi has changed his life and put him back on the right track[/caption]
But his desire to make a difference in the poverty-stricken African country has helped get him back on the straight and narrow.
Berahino’s work in one of the world’s poorest nations has been a life-changing experience.
And it has become the 25-year-old’s driving force since he was given Fifa clearance in the summer to play for the war-torn country he fled as a ten-year-old.
He told SunSport: “I’m so far away from where I was two years ago.
Getty Images – Getty Berahino was a troublemaker at West Brom, having been convicted for drink-driving and speeding in November 2014[/caption]
“It is well documented that it became difficult for me at West Brom. I had a lot of issues, a lot of pressure at the time and, I’m not going to lie, there were times I let myself go and didn’t handle things the right way.
“But now I am in a different place and I am so glad I have come through the other side.”
Berahino made his Burundi debut in September scoring against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon in a 1-1 draw.
Playing for England was once his dream and he gained a total of 47 caps from Under-16 to U-21 level.
Getty Images – Getty The striker played for England youth teams on levels starting from under-16 through to under-21[/caption]
That dream took a battering during that infamous 913-day goal drought that finally ended this season with a header against Huddersfield.
But now he is proud to represent the team nicknamed the Swallows in the War.
He said: “I’d always wanted to help my country and I made a massive step by going back to play for them.
“I’ve always tried to do things back home because the Burundi people are my people — I came here to England and I got lucky.
Berahino was cleared by Fifa to switch to the Burundi national team in August 2018
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“God gave me a better life and now I am in a situation where I can help a lot of people and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Me and my mum always tried to do something — she has been travelling twice, three times a year to Burundi to help the unfortunate ones that will never get the opportunity I got.
“Now I go back myself because I am playing for my country. Every time I do, there is a lot of work with homeless kids, I provide them with food.
“There are patients in hospitals that never pay for their bills and because of that they are kept there as prisoners.
Berahino debuted for Burundi on September 8 against Gabon, scoring an equaliser and securing a point for his side in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers
“They are kept there until they can find a way of somehow getting the money.
“This is a massive thing. A lot of people suffer like that, not only in Burundi but in other parts of Africa. Others are left to pass away at night because they don’t have the money to pay for their treatment to save them.
“So I try to get my mum to visit these places and try to pay for them or I visit them myself.
“Next summer I am planning to spend my holiday there, helping people.”
Reuters Former Potters boss Paul Lambert dropped Berahino earlier this year for ill-discipline and forced to play for Stoke U23 team[/caption]
Berahino was brought up by mum Liliane to be a Christian, yet he still ran up a long rap sheet.
Before moving to Stoke almost two years ago, the striker had been convicted of drink-driving on the M6 after being caught doing 110mph.
A playing ban followed a failed drugs test, although he says his drink was spiked at a party and he threatened to go on strike when West Brom rejected a series of bids from Tottenham.
There was also an apology from him to the club in 2014 after he was pictured inhaling “hippy crack” in his Range Rover.
Reuters Berahino has scored two goals for Stoke in the Championship this season[/caption]
Even in April of this year, former Potters boss Paul Lambert dumped him in the U-23’s for ill-discipline. But it is a whole different Berahino now.
He added: “I don’t want to be seen as someone showing the world that I am doing anything special. That is not what this is about.
“The whole point is about me knowing deep inside that I am changing someone’s life, maybe saving someone’s life.
“It is so troubling to know that people are suffering, that they are dying or are hungry for the want of only a little money.
Reuters Berahino opening the scoring for Stoke against Huddersfield in the Carabao Cup in August[/caption]
“But seeing all the suffering and problems for myself is one of the things that has given me a wake-up call in my life. It has humbled me massively.
“There have been tears — you see poor people in horrible situations.
“Sometimes it is a kid who’s mum has passed away, dad has passed away and there is no one to look after them.
“All this is what has given me the drive, now, to grab this opportunity I still have with Stoke as much as I can.”