World Cup soccer player’s faith a source of strength

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the fall of 1995, a thin, fast soccer player named Oguchi Onyewu, wearing No. 5 on his red- and black-striped jersey, helped lead St. Andrew Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, Md., to a 4-1 win in the Catholic Youth Organization’s varsity Mid-Atlantic Championship in Washington. His team later won the regional CYO title in Philadelphia.

This summer, Onyewu, still wearing No. 5, competed for the U.S. men’s national soccer team in the World Cup in South Africa. Now tall and strong and built like an NFL player, the defender returned from a serious knee injury for the team’s opening match against England, one of the tournament’s favorites.

Playing with skill and tenacity, Onyewu helped neutralize England’s dynamic offense, and the United States gained a 1-1 tie that proved crucial so the team could later advance to the round of 16. The U.S. team’s World Cup showing was one of its best in decades.

In a July 12 interview on the day after Spain beat the Netherlands, 1-0, for the World Cup title, Onyewu spoke about his own personal journey, which has been not only a story of athletic accomplishments but also an ongoing journey of faith. Onyewu, who had recently returned home to Maryland from South Africa, watched the World Cup championship game, then went to Mass afterward with his brother Nonye at his family’s parish church, St. Paul in Damascus, Md.

In his interview with the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper, Onyewu said his education at St. Andrew the Apostle School in Silver Spring, which he attended from preschool through eighth grade, “helped a lot in terms of discipline … being instilled on a daily basis with religious values and with life values.”

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