(Photo: REUTERS / Toru Hanai)
The U.S. soccer player who scored the quickest American goal in World Cup history Monday recently credited the sport with boosting his relationship with God.
"My parents had started me in the sport to help me learn good people skills," forward Clint Dempsey told Sports Spectrum in May. "Little did I know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God."
The Texan who scored the U.S.'s first goal in its 2-1 win over Ghana and later suffered a brutal kick to the nose, grew up in a Catholic family. His family struggled financially at times and at one point Dempsey, 31, quit soccer club to give his sister, Jennifer, the opportunity to play professional tennis.
When Dempsey turned 12, however, his life changed forever.
"My sister died (from a brain aneurysm) and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all. For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me," explained Dempsey.
Dempsey said that he reconnected with his faith in college after he began to read the Bible again.
"In college, I joined a team Bible study. God's Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him," Dempsey said. "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."
The father of three has scored in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he scored against Ghana in a 2-1 American defeat. In South Africa in 2010 Dempsey scored in a draw against England. Monday's goal made him the first American to score in three separate World Cups.
"I pray for strength to walk the road before me. 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," Dempsey said.
After its thrilling win against Ghana, the U.S. faces Portugal on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Portugal was defeated 4-0 by Germany Monday afternoon.
Dempsey also plays for Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders.