An uncommon act took place during the game between Sao Paulo and Penapolense for the quarterfinals of the Paulista Soccer Championship on Wednesday (26). After both teams came to a tie during the regulation time of the match, the decision of who would go to the semifinals was based on penalty kicks.
One kick here, then another kick there. The third Penapolense player to take the penalty kick was Washington, a midfielder. The opportunity to take the lead on the scoreboard lay at his feet, since his team’s goalkeeper was able to defend the opposing team’s previous attempt.
Washington prepared himself and fired a kick into the left corner of Sao Paulo’s goal. There was no chance for the goalie to save the ball. And because of this advantage, his team qualified for the semifinals.
However, what he did after the penalty kick was completely unexpected. He got down on his knees in the middle of the field, and even though the camera’s microphone didn’t capture the sound very well, it was possible to understand that he yelled out: “I am Universal! I am Universal!”
What he yelled out loud and clear is a campaign slogan of the Universal Church and its faithful members, who give their testimonies and say, proudly, “I am Universal!” These commercials appear during the intervals of the Universal Church’s program on Record TV and other stations, in addition to YouTube and social networks.
Washington Santana da Silva, 25, exclusively explained to Universal.org why he used the slogan: “I yelled it out to show everyone that I’m not ashamed to be a member of the Universal Church. I am a member since 2010 and I know how the media persecutes the Church and Bishop Macedo. There is much prejudice and ignorance towards the Church.”
The idea to do this in front of the cameras came after he attended a meeting at the Universal Church in Penapolis, in rural São Paulo, where he lives. “The pastor determined that I would make an important goal. I believed, and that’s what happened,” said the player.
Why the Universal Church?
Washington remembers that he joined the Universal Church after accepting an invitation from his mother to attend a meeting. “I was going through a very difficult time in my career. I had left Figueirense (a soccer team in Santa Catarina), so I wasn’t playing at all.”
To survive, he says that he sold sandals on the street. Those who knew him, from having seen him play on TV, would stop and ask: “Aren’t you Washington? I’ve seen you play,” recalls the athlete.
Washington says he had the pastors’ support to not give up fighting for his dream. “One day, I went before God and said, ‘Lord, please guide me: either You make me a great soccer player or lead me in the direction of a new career’.”
And God showed Washington the way. He was hired by Crac, in Goiás, and in early 2014 started playing for Penapolense. By qualifying, the team from rural Sao Paulo achieved an unprecedented feat, especially since the other team was the peoples’ favorite. “If you were to ask, 99% of the people would have said we didn’t have a chance. It was like the battle between David and Goliath. But, thank God, we won,” he celebrated.
Take a look at the video below, which shows the moment when he celebrates the goal with the campaign slogan, at the Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo:
Click here and also get to know the story of Gustavo Boccoli, another soccer player that is Universal. He plays on the Maccabi Haifa team in northern Israel.