Jesus was on full display at midfield as one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the Americas got underway and two evangelical pastors prayed in the name of Jesus.

Paraguayan pastor Emilio Aguero Esgaib and another pastor took part in the tournament's opening ceremonies ahead of a matchup between defending champions Argentina and Canada. 

Esgaib prayed in Spanish and then then the other pastor prayed in English. "We want to always thank God for the life, opportunities, protection, and peace He provides," the prayer opens. It then moved it to a very brief sermon of sorts.

"Jesus said, 'I have come that they may have life and have it in all its fullness.' A full life consists of love for each other, forgiveness towards each other, and unity with each other. This is possible when we focus on God, the source of life."

The prayer then shifts to supplication, saying, "God we ask your blessing over the tournament, the nations represented, the teams, players, and families. May your peace, your protection, be upon all, in Jesus name, Amen."


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Paraguayan news source ABC Color reports that Esgaib's Spanish prayer said, "God bless America. Christ's message is still valid today and He called us to peace, understanding, and forgiveness. He also told us to believe, because the one who believes, everything is possible. These words encourage us not to be discouraged, to believe big, and believe that everything can be done."

Many Christians immediately took to social media to celebrate the moment. 

"This gave me goosebumps," Instagram user @antinho_tite commented on one post. "I couldn’t believe it. With tears In my eyes, I was so excited. Yes we want to see this 100000%. JESUS REIGNS."

"Is this real??? Wow to Yeshua be ALL the glory," exclaims another user on the same post.

Many other Christians shared similar thoughts, celebrating a moment of public dedication to Christ. Others, however, weren't as impressed.

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Reddit has been flooded with people outraged at the thought of a religious act at a sporting event. "That was awful," writes user Aayel. "Why they should (sic) permit it?! Pushing their beliefs to people’s (sic) using sport! Just awful!"

Some users have pointed out that the World Cup in Qatar featured Muslim practices. That included a recitation of the Koran, Islam's holy book, at the opening ceremony and English translations of sayings and teachings of the prophet Mohammad posted around Doha, according to Reuters.

Esgaib is no stranger to controversy. He has drawn fire recently for comments he's made on trans people, referring to a specific situation calling two trans women "grotesque." on one of his social media accounts. He has faced large public backlash for his comments. He is also outspoken against abortion rights.

Some people online expressed that sporting events are not the place for any religion to be highlighted. "How is a prayer before Copa America respectful?" asks @beardscript on X. "Let's keep our sport secular and open to everyone, please and thank you."

Canada lost to Argentina 2-0 in the opening match. Their next match is against Peru on Tuesday, June 25.