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Ghana’s Black Stars shine at World Cup

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP)–A team that prays together plays well together, or so it seems for Ghana’s national soccer team, the Black Stars, who have advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals.

Of six African nations that qualified for the World Cup, Ghana is the only one still in the tournament. The Black Stars get their name from the country’s flag, which features a black star in its center amid three horizontal stripes — red, yellow and green.

“What I’ve noticed, more than anything, about the Black Stars is they are a team in every sense of the word,” writer Jeff Bradley noted in an article for ESPN The Magazine.

“From their pregame — and postgame, and halftime, and pre-training and post-training — songs and prayers, to their disciplined adherence to [coach] Rajevac’s rigid system that features a single striker, they are true believers that the whole can be greater than the sum of its individual pieces,” Bradley wrote.

Once, while waiting for the Ghanaian team in their hotel lobby, Bradley heard singing from an upper floor. “I could feel the joy and passion,” he recounted. Moments later, when he asked team members about it, the response was, “We love to sing together, dance together, pray together.”

The Black Stars face Uruguay in the quarterfinals on Friday, July 2, in Johannesburg after defeating the United States 2-1 in the round of 16.

The singing, dancing and praying, Ghanaian team captain John Mensah says, are no afterthought. “We are Christians and we all know how important God is,” he told Germany’s DPN news service. “We respect God and we pray every time before the game and after the game. We praise God for what He has done for us.”

After Ghana’s 2006 World Cup appearance in Germany, Mensah was honored by the Methodist church in Ghana for his Christian testimony during the games. A church spokesman at the time said Mensah was “an embodiment of what God has decreed for youth.”

In a published statement late last year, Mensah said he seeks God for all big decisions and is adamant that “the Almighty is in control.”

Before each of Ghana’s 2010 World Cup matches so far, singing could be heard from the Ghanaian team as they left their dressing room and prepared to enter the field.

Ghana is only the third African nation in World Cup history to reach the quarterfinals. Cameroon did it in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. And this is the first World Cup to be held on African soil.

So, for the Black Stars, who are in the World Cup for only the second time, their success in the competition is not only shared back in Ghana, but by the entire African continent.

“We are extra motivated to go all out because we are not only representing Ghana. We know we are carrying the hope and aspirations of the African continent,” Black Stars defender Lee Addy told reporters at a news conference.

“Many expected the African teams to do well in the continent’s first-ever World Cup,” Addy said, “but unfortunately five of the teams have been knocked out, leaving Ghana alone. We want to keep the flag of Ghana and Africa high.”
Charles Braddix is a writer for the International Mission Board on assignment in South Africa covering the events, matches and ministries related to the World Cup.

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  • Charles Braddix