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Africans freely mix God and World Cup

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Version Française. Ghana’s remarkable but ill-fated run in this World Cup took on a spiritual significance that has left some Africans worrying that God had turned his back on their World Cup dreams.

Untold numbers of the faithful futilely begged for victory against Uruguay on Friday (July 2) as the Blacks Stars of Ghana – who some journalists began calling the “Hope of Africa” - missed a decisive penalty kick at the close of extra time.

The game then went to a shootout, and Ghana fell to Uruguay in a heartbreaking result, 4-2.

"It is a terrible moment for the whole continent. It is a disaster,” exclaimed Abedi Pele, the legend of the Ghanaian football.

"Uruguay cuts short the dream of the Black Stars," shouted the headline of the Daily Graphic, Ghana’s main newspaper, which dedicated its editorial to its beloved national team. In Zimbabwe, The Herald daily newspaper also mourned "Africa’s dream cut short" after "a cruel end of match."

For many supporters who earnestly asked God to favor Ghana, their prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“God abandoned us!” “God was Uruguayan!” Such cries were typical of the resentment that poured into websites and media outlets across Africa after the loss, according to www.linfo.re.

"God gave us a penalty [kick], and we refused this celestial present,” an Ivory Coast storekeeper named Appolo complained to Linfo.re. “We are cursed."

The Cameroonian Mboa blog reported that hundreds of Christians gathered in Yaounde’s Saint Paul and Peter’s Parish of Mfoundi-Assi, to plead in prayer for a Black Stars victory. Archbishop TONYE BAKOT had invited all the Christians "to keep on praying so that God continues to boost the only African hope in the Cup towards the final victory," Mboa reports.

In Accra, Ghana’s capital city, AFP reported that supporters who had not attend church for years descended on houses of worship to thank God and pray for the match ahead. These last-minute efforts to persuade God were bitterly disappointed, and bewildered fans tried to understand God’s intent.

Atoh Jacques the Pastor of the Brother Jacques foundation, a Christian organization in Togo, says all of the prayers and shouts to heaven make perfect sense to him.

“For Christians, no matter the situation, God is the sure and safe help and refuge,” Jacques said. “In the same way we call upon God for the safety of our homes and nation, or to grant us success or healing, for example, we can also call upon him to help a team win a match!"

Atoh does not blame God for allowing the penalty kick to bounce off the crossbar. If anything, Pastor Atoh thinks that missing that critical penalty will help Gyan (the striker), Ghana and all Africa to be more humble when success comes to them in the future.

Whether it was God’s will or just bad luck, Africa is already looking beyond the pain of this defeat and celebrating Ghana’s achievement as just the third African country ever to reach the quarterfinal of a World Cup.

Fans are already eagerly anticipating the 2014 World Cup, which gives the faithful four full years to pray for God’s blessings – and to worry that another African team will not find God's favor and get prematurely pushed out of the tournament.

But don’t try telling pastor Atoh that God has anything against Africa in football.

“We’re not cursed,” Atoh said. "I think God is driving African football towards even greater and long-lasting victories."

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