RUSTENBURG - The president
of Ghana led his nation's football squad in prayers on Saturday
shortly before they beat the United States 2-1 to reach the
World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
John Atta Mills spoke to the players in the dressing room,
giving them a pep talk before they prayed together, Ghana
Football Association vice-president Fred Pappoe told Reuters.
"It made a lot of difference to the boys," said Pappoe, who
is also head of management for the Black Stars. "We always pray
- before a game, in the bus, in the hotel and also on the pitch
before each half and afterwards, no matter what the result.
"But to have our president here and sitting in the stands
next to (FIFA president) Sepp Blatter was a solid morale-booster
for the team. When he came to the dressing room, to see the
boys, and to pep them up, it meant a lot.
"He said some prayers with the team, a special word of
prayer just before the game when they went on to the pitch and
it made a difference."
Ghana, who face Uruguay in the quarter-finals at Soccer City
in Johannesburg on Friday, are the only African team still in
the tournament following the group stage exits of hosts South
Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast.
Their emotional extra-time win at the Royal Bafokeng stadium
sparked wild celebrations as the players ran round the field
with the South African and Ghanaian flags amid a riot of
Pappoe said the Ghana players were all fully aware of their
extra responsibility now they were seen as representing the
"It means a lot but it brings a lot of pressure and
expectation and, of course, it would be lighter for them if
there were one or two other African countries still in the
"But we take this in our stride and our boys are playing to
do their best and to reach their limits. We are the only team
holding high the flag of Africa now so it is a moment of great
pride for us, but we take it also in all humility."
He added that the president's visit had helped calm the
players' nerves. "They were, surprisingly, not nervous at all
because they have faith in the coach and believe that if they
play by the rules all will be fine," he said.
"We take one game at a time and now go to the drawing board
again and look at Uruguay to examine the mentality and
resilience of that team. And, with the great support of Africa,
I am sure we can go beyond them to the semi-finals."
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