Clint Dempsey’s experience of playing in the World Cup might be a little different to most of the other players, as he goes through this football journey with God right by His side.
He was in the thick of the action in the USA’s victorious opener against Ghana, but when he’s not on the pitch scoring goals in the opening seconds and breaking his nose for the cause, Clint Dempsey is a man of God studying the Bible and praying for the road ahead.
Shortly before the World Cup got underway in Brazil, he gave an interview to Sports Spectrum magazine in which he talked about growing up as a Catholic and the important part faith has and continues to play in his life.
He tells how he went to church every Sunday with his grandmother and that it was through her “learned that faith was important”.
He may be a hugely successful pro-soccer player, captaining the US national team, but his life has also known heartache and tragedy.
When he was 12, he experienced a loss that “would change me forever”, when his sister Jennifer died from a brain aneurysm.
Her death triggered all kinds of questions about why some things happen and “what role God played in it all”.
“For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But he was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength,” says Dempsey.
But it was only really when he went to college at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and got into Bible study that he started to acquire a more active faith.
“God’s Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him,” he told Sports Spectrum.
“I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction.
“Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me.”
When two of his college teammates died in a car crash on their way to a concert that Dempsey only pulled out of because he didn’t have the money to go, it gave him a gratitude for life and a desire to make sure his life is for God more than anything else.
“Today, I pray for strength to walk the road before me,” he says. “I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success He has given me.
“Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him.”
For now, that life is kicking a ball towards the opposing team’s net at the World Cup and hopefully scoring a few more goals while avoiding any further injuries.
He certainly won’t be wanting any repeats of the Ghana match. Dempsey was left coughing up blood and struggling to breathe through his nose after Ghana defender John Boye accidentally smashed his leg into the USA player’s face.
In spite of the injury, Dempsey will most likely be back on the pitch for the USA’s next match against Portugal on Sunday – although he’s being advised to use a protective mask as the fracture continues to heal.
Dr Sam Rizk, a nose injury expert who works with major New York sports franchises, told Yahoo! Sports: “If it was reinjured it could be really bad. It could lead to severe difficulties with breathing and uncontrollable bleeding.”
Dempsey scored just 30 seconds into the match against Ghana and was quick to give a nod to God afterwards, pointing two fingers to the sky.
Lesser known teammate John Brooks sealed the deal with a second goal for the USA just four minutes from the finish.
Brooks said afterwards: “I thanked God for the great moment. I dreamed that I scored in the 80th minute and we won the game. It’s unbelievable.”