The Story of Kristian Dimond
They say that life can be a rollercoaster – and that is certainly true of Kristian Dimond’s life. From humble beginnings in Barry and a difficult childhood, he seemed destined for the big time with some of the biggest clubs in Europe wanting to sign the young Welsh international football talent. He could have had anything – money, a career and status – until a cruel injury broke his ankle (and dreams) to pieces. Football could no longer give him the things he wanted, so from a very dark place he forged a successful career as a businessman. He had it all – fast cars, holidays, a big house and a beautiful family – but that all changed in the most surprising way possible. Here is his story…
Thanks for agreeing to talk to us. We know that up until very recently you’ve kept your story very private and we appreciate your willingness to share it with us. Let’s start at the beginning with your childhood.
I grew up in Barry during the 80s in what I felt at the time was a fairly normal home. I was loved and don’t feel that I have anything more to complain about than anyone else, but we did have issues as a family – Dad was a violent man, but I’m thankful for the care and support I was given.
Do you mind sharing about your father – we hear a lot today about domestic abuse and the terrible effect it has on families. What was it like growing up in that kind of environment?
My father suffered from mental health issues and was violent and abusive and in and out of mental hospital. Home was a place of fear and guilt. I didn’t worry too much about the beatings I had as a kid, I could deal with those. It was the violence against Mum that I found difficult to cope with. I felt so guilty because I couldn’t stop it, and this guilt had a big impact on me.
At the time it was difficult to cope, and I found school a bit of a problem as I was also bullied for a few years. I used to hide in the toilets and was scared and very frustrated. There was a lot going on and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it, but sport helped a lot. When I was on the pitch, I could be myself and didn’t have any worries, it also helped that I was naturally good at it – especially football.
Would you say that sport was the thing that saved you?
I suppose you could say that. I started playing for Cardiff Academy and within a year I joined Swansea and was playing internationally for Wales. It gave me a release and took me out of the bad situation, especially when Crystal Palace came in for me.
I loved my time playing football for Swansea and met some amazing people like Ron Walton, the coach and Jan Molby the manager. But once I was fourteen, English clubs could show an interest and it was a great feeling to be wanted by a club like Crystal Palace. They made it clear that they would look after me and, when I was fifteen, I moved to London and was placed with a family who were paid to look after me. It was a very different family to the one I had at home and I remember noticing how nice and polite everybody was.
I’m interested to know how you felt at that time – were you happy?
Yes, completely. I had my identity – I was Kristian the footballer. I was doing well; in most games I was the captain and I was moving up the ages with Wales and life was great. I was glad because I had purpose and had plenty of money too, they even paid me to go to school every week. The crazy thing was that I had all this money but couldn’t spend it because I was given everything for free anyway. I just saved it and sent some of it home to Mum. I did feel guilty that I was safe whilst Mum and my brothers were at home with Dad, but it was a relief to be away from it all.
We hear a lot today of young footballers who become wealthy and then go off the rails – were you ever tempted?
No, not really. I mean I had the odd night out, but I never did drugs and was dedicated to my football. Things were happening fast; I was making a name for myself as the technically gifted midfield/central defender and was also developing an aggression and hardness that you need to play football at the top level. Things were good.
Was it at that time you got the injury?
Yes, two things happened. I was offered a contract by two very big clubs – Spurs and Inter Milan in Italy – but I decided that I would stay at Crystal Palace because I’d had this nasty injury and thought that it was safer to stay with what I knew. The injury happened as I was playing one day, I wasn’t tackling or near anyone at the time, but I just felt a pop in my ankle and pain. I knew it was serious and the physios confirmed this when they said that I’d broken my ankle. I was devastated because this was my first real injury.
What happened next?
It was months and months of rehab, but I was aware that the ankle wasn’t right. It’s odd, the dynamic changes completely when you’re injured – it’s a very lonely place and you suddenly start to have all these fears. Will I get back? Are the other players leaving me behind? That’s when I started to lie. I told the physios that I was ok and not in pain, but I clearly wasn’t. Thankfully they don’t listen as much to players today but depend more on scans and doctors, but at that time I pushed myself to play when I shouldn’t have. Things went from bad to worse as the ankle didn’t improve to a level that I could rely on. In the end I was signed by Cardiff, who took a punt on me; but I just knew that I was finished, and I had to retire from professional football before I was 21.
That must have been crushing – to have a taste of life as a pro footballer and then to have it all taken away.
Yes, it was horrible. I tried playing semi-pro for a bit but couldn’t even do that. I was devastated and struggled to cope – I’d lost my identity and I wasn’t nice to be around. During that time my girlfriend couldn’t even put up with me and we broke up. I didn’t have a purpose and didn’t know who I was anymore. It was a dark time.
So, how did you get yourself out of that situation?
The only way was up, and I suppose that I used some of that competitive spirit and frustration to get my act together and find a job. First, I became a salesman selling windows and then a security advisor and I quickly climbed the ladder. I was gutted that I’d lost so much, but was determined I could still have the football lifestyle and money, even if I couldn’t play.
I got back with my girlfriend; we got married and started a family. I bought this nice house that was far too big, but had it all – a gym, a cinema room. I was away a lot with work, so I made it up by buying extravagant gifts for the family; we had nice cars, went on holidays and had loads of things. Looking back, I was trying to prove to others that I was a big deal.
Life was very good, but I wasn’t content. I always wanted more... the next thing… a better car… you name it. I remember Mum asking me if I ever thought I’d have enough – she was seeing the life I was building for myself.
You say that you weren’t content – did you go searching for something, maybe spirituality or a religion?
Nothing could be further from the truth. I’d never had any interest in spiritual things. I’d had a few odd experiences over the years – once when I’d had an operation because they thought I had cancer. It turned out to be nothing, but I remember the surgeon saying that somebody must be looking out for me. Then again when we’d had to cancel a holiday in Thailand because my wife was pregnant and avoided the tsunami that hit our hotel – Nan said ‘there must be somebody looking out for you’. It made me think, and I wasn’t against the idea that there was a God who looked after me. But, to be honest, I thought it was just rubbish – why would somebody care for me?
It’s odd to hear you say that as we now know you as a Christian and a leader of a church – what on earth happened?
It’s been a crazy few years! It all started with my wife, Carla. She started going to a mums and tots at a local church in Barry and she very quickly became a Christian. She was talking about Jesus a lot and, to be honest, it was getting on my nerves. I was even a bit jealous of this new man she had in her life! There was one thing I couldn’t ignore though, she had changed. I’d known her since we were fourteen, but she had completely changed – there was so much love in her now. It bugged me that she was so nice and caring for me, even when I did things like go out with the boys and come in late and drunk; she wouldn’t give me a hard time, she just made me a cup of tea. She even forgave people that I knew had really hurt her! She kept asking me to go to church and, in the end, I just gave in.
So, you decided to become a Christian too?
I started going to a few church services, but nothing changed. Carla got disheartened - she’d expected me to become a Christian straight away, but it didn’t work out that way. To be honest, I felt very inadequate; I didn’t understand what was going on half the time, and couldn’t work the people out at the church. They were kind, but I thought they just wanted my money because they knew I was loaded. I really didn’t think it was for me, but then one Sunday something happened. Merv Neal, the pastor, was preaching and he was explaining what a godly father and husband should look like. I was suddenly filled with horror and dread and I became aware that I was none of those things he was describing. Carla said that I turned white in my seat, and I was honestly petrified.
It sounds dramatic - what were you petrified of?
I suddenly became aware that there was somebody out there who knew everything about me. It’s very difficult to explain, but I just knew God was real. It was as if somebody had put a mirror in front of me and, for the first time, I’d seen who I truly was. It was crippling. I realised that I would be judged on the life that I had lived, and I knew that I was going to hell. I’d always thought that if somewhere like that existed, then it was for people like rapists and paedophiles, but I realised that I was also guilty. I hadn’t been the best Dad I could or the best husband. If God was holy and perfectly good, I realised I was in trouble. I was scared.
When you get confronted by fear, you can either stand up to it or run away, and I decided to run away. I went home and told my wife that I knew there was a God, but that we were never going back to church again! She was naturally devastated and upset, but my mind was made up.
What happened to change your mind?
I didn’t want anything more to do with the church, but I was really wrestling with stuff and loads of coincidences started happening. I was getting really annoyed because I kept bumping into the same people – one was the pastor from church. It got to the stage where I thought he was following me, but I knew he wasn’t. I just knew I needed to go back because I’d had my eyes opened to reality, and I needed to deal with it.
After some time, I went back, and I was listening to a sermon when suddenly I realised that God loved me. I realised that Jesus had come to this world to live the perfect life and that he died on the cross to take the punishment I deserved. I had this overwhelming feeling of relief and joy and was completely convinced of the forgiveness of Jesus. It was amazing – all the feelings of being inadequate disappeared, and I wanted to learn more and get to know God more.
Life changed so much in those first few years. I was truly happy and had found a true home and a love that was real. I learned so much, I was reading my Bible and was enjoying a deep happiness in my life. I’ve found something real and lasting.
Has it lasted, and what’s life like for you now?
After a while we decided to get rid of our house and so many of our possessions – we just felt they were a distraction, and we realised others needed the money more than us. We wanted to give the money to the church, but God had other plans, and the house was sold to a local pastor who used it to store furniture that he was providing for people in need.
God also had other plans for me. I wanted a quiet life – to continue working and supporting the church, but God called me to be a pastor and to share the good news of Jesus with others. We’ve just moved to a new area where I’ve started as the pastor of a small church.
People might think I’m crazy. I’ve given up my job, taken an 80% pay cut and cashed in my pension to move, but I know this is what God wants. I once had thought that contentment was to be found by buying things and having the best and the latest stuff, but that hadn’t given me what I wanted, and you can’t take that stuff with you in the end. I’ve realised that life is more than that – life is about a relationship with God and knowing his love and forgiveness. That is something that will last.
First published in Ask Magazine August 2019