South African religious leaders have expressed strong support for the national football (soccer) team 42 days before the kick-off of the World Cup tournament on 11 June 2010, with one cleric calling on the players to be role models for young people - writes Munyaradzi Makoni.
The support came in the form of remarks by Christian and Jewish leaders published in South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper on 25 April.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, said from Durban, "All we ask is that their presence, behaviour and performance on and off the field bear the qualities that will make them worthy role models for our children and youth for generations to come."
Napier said, "May God bless Africa, may he nurture and protect all who will be guests during the World Cup, and may he ensure that the best and most sporting team be the World Champions, and may that team be Bafana Bafana [the nick-name of the South African team]."
The chief rabbi for South Africa's Jewish community, Warren Goldstein, hoped for an inspiration to victory, "in our striving to create a truly great country".
Goldstein said, "May this inspire us to create wealth and defeat poverty and disease, to conquer crime and unemployment, to give all our children an education for life, and to rise above narrow racism and build one nation of many colours." He added, "Let us all rededicate ourselves to the sacred task of creating a society that will serve as a beacon of light to the world."
Pastor Ray McCauley who heads the Rhema Bible Church said, "The hope that you carry is one of a united South Africa showing all nations what love, peace and reconciliation mean in a sometimes confused world; our legacy to the world."
South Africa is the first African nation to host the soccer (football) World Cup which is held every four years. No African nation has yet won the cup.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]