Ghanaian priest prepared for World Cup match between US and Ghana

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

June 15, 2014 at 1:15 a.m.
Updated June 16, 2014 at 1:16 a.m.

The 2014 World Cup kicked off Thursday in Brazil, and for the next month, millions of soccer enthusiasts will be glued to the television.

But there's one match in particular the Rev. Gabriel Bentil wants to view - it's when Ghana faces off against the United States.

As a Ghanian native, Bentil, who serves at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Inez, said he's rooting equally for both teams.

"Whatever happens, I will be happy. I support both teams," he said, mentioning soccer is Ghana's most popular sport. "If United States wins, I will like it, and if Ghana wins, I would like it because it would be the first African nation to go to the finals."

Bentil, who moved to the U.S. 13 years ago, said he grew up playing soccer - or football as it is called in Ghana - in his native city, Takoradi.

The sport leads in popularity in Africa and many European and South American nations, and when the World Cup rolls around every four years, communities rally with enthusiasm to watch the games.

"Everybody plays football in Ghana, so people are ready to watch the World Cup," said Bentil, 58. "We watch at houses, or sometimes the restaurants will put on the game to attract people there."

And many people will bring their TVs outside, and people will stop by and watch the game.

"Some people go from work, and when they're walking along the way, if the game starts, they go to the nearest TV. Wherever there's a TV, you watch the game," he said. "It's an open invitation. If the TV is outside, you are welcome to watch, even if you do not know who lives in the home."

Soccer has not reached the same popularity in the U.S. as it has in many other countries, but that's why he hopes the U.S. will make it to the finals, Bentil said.

"If the U.S. is able to qualify to the final, you can imagine how popular it will become," he said. "That's why I wish they'd go on to the finals, so more people would watch and see how much fun it is."

Ghana will play the U.S. at 5 p.m. Monday.

And Bentil said his ultimate wish is for Ghana to face off against the U.S. in the final.

"My only prayer will be may the best team win," he said. "This is what I pray for."



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