World Cup brings Ghana native priest closer to home

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Watching Ghana reach the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup gave Rev. Peter Gillette, pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, plenty of reasons to be excited.

The Rev. Peter Gillette, pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, in Camas, tasted heaven when his native country of Ghana defeated the U.S. men’s soccer team in the round of 16 stage of the 2010 World Cup June 26, in South Africa.

“When it got to overtime, I couldn’t watch anymore. I went to the office to try and do some work,” Gillette said. “So, I’m following online and I see that Ghana is up 2-1. I couldn’t believe it. I went back home and enjoyed the rest of the game.”

When Ghana and Uruguay squared off in the quarterfinals Friday, Gillette wore his Ghana jersey with great pride. He had never been more nervous and excited. Only an afternoon mass could tear him away from the television.

In 1974, Zaire became the first team from Africa to reach the quarterfinals. Cameroon followed in 1990, and so did Senegal in 2002. On Friday, Ghana attempted to become the first team from Africa to advance to the semifinals.

“Initially, I had my doubts about this team. I was apprehensive,” Gillette said. “When I saw them putting balls in the back of the net, I became more optimistic. You can play exciting soccer, but if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net, there’s nothing to talk about.”

All of Africa appeared to be pulling for Ghana, including the 84,017 fans attending the game in Johannesburg. Ghana grabbed a 1-0 lead just before halftime, but Uruguay got even on a free kick that sailed just under the crossbar about four minutes into the second half.

Gillette was on the edge of his seat, anticipating another goal. Every time Ghana took a shot, he would jerk in his chair as if he was trying to kick the ball into the net himself.

Uruguay outlasted Ghana in a shoot out, 4-2. Although Gillette is disappointed with the end result, he said it takes nothing away from what his native countrymen accomplished on the soccer field against the best in the world.

“I am definitely proud,” he said. “Ghana is only the fourth country in Africa to advance this far. This is a great moment for our continent.”

Gillette grew up appreciating the game of soccer, and played the sport religiously until he tore his ACL in college.

“For me, it’s the full affair. I love all of the flair and excitement,” he said. “The time crunch involved does not allow for too many mistakes. You have to put your best foot forward, and go for goal. It’s fun.”

Gillette arrived in the U.S. about eight years ago. Before coming to Camas in July 2008, he served at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in Seaview, Wash., and St. Lawrence Catholic Church, in Raymond, Wash.

“The people in Camas are nice, and the neighborhood is quiet,” Gillette said. “I like it here very much.”