Jesus! Copa America kicks off with controversy sparked by a prayer

This is quite unprecedented and uncalled for, said critics, while supporters hailed the precedent set.
Pastor Emilio Aguero Esgaib, right, during the inaugural ceremony of Copa America 2024.
Pastor Emilio Aguero Esgaib, right, during the inaugural ceremony of Copa America 2024.(Photo | X)

Jesus! Copa America 2024 has kicked off with a controversy sparked by a prayer.

Critics called the summoning of god to the football field unprecedented and uncalled for, while supporters sang Hallelujah, hailing the precedent set.

The issue

It all began with a prayer read out by Emilio Aguero Esgaib, a pastor who is no stranger to controversy, ahead of the inaugural clash between Argentina and Canada.

Emilio, the founder of the "Más que Vencedores" church in Argentina, has been accused of homophobia and transphobia earlier.

Followers of Copa America believe this is the first time that a FIFA event has kicked off with a pastor reading out a prayer.

Though, a section of the fans were delighted that the "hand of God" became a part of the game, there were others who were baffled and even offended by the prayer hijacking the spirit of the sporting event.

Social media storm

Many took to X (formerly Twitter), to air their views and vent their anger.

Some compared it to the inauguration of a NASCAR race where it is tradition to start with a prayer for the safety of the drivers. Others lashed out on social media terming it "inappropriate" and "awkward".

A critic with a X handle named Momo was acerbic. "Has Copa America ever started with a prayer ? Leave it to the US to make it an evangelical event," he tweeted.

Another said, "Opening Copa America with an evangelical prayer was wholly inappropriate btw. Insane actually, let’s cut that out IMMEDIATELY."

An X handle going by the name, Mr.Stuff and thangs said, "Well too bad, it's a thing so get used to it if you intent to watch Copa America going forward. Also would you be saying the same thing if it was a Muslim or Jewish prayer or if it was a long speech about LGBTQ? (sic)"

Pastor Emilio Aguero Esgaib, right, during the inaugural ceremony of Copa America 2024.
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Pastor who is not new to controversy

Emilio Aguero Esgaib, who kicked off the storm, according to, a news outlet, is a pastor who is "against gender ideology".

He has been quoted as saying that "my problem is not the homosexual person. Both the Bible and the laws give free will so that people can do what they want with their lives. But when they want to legalize and educate my children with these ideologies, I already have something to say."

How did such a controversial pastor then get to offer the prayer.

According to topmercato, a football news outlet in Argentina, the president of Conmebol, Alejandro Domínguez, was snapped at the 19th anniversary of the Más Que Vencedores Church in February 2020. This points to a pre-existing link between the duo that might have brought Emilio on to the field.

The pastor's views have been like the proverbial red rag to many fans and may even lead to them turning their back on the tournament, according to some commentators.

A message posted on platform X said, "The Copa América opening ceremony featured a prayer from a chud evangelical preacher who crusades against “gender ideology."

The USA and religion have always had an edgy relationship. Though Christianity plays a major role in the life of the Americans, it is on the decline. Recent polls there show a high chance of Donald Trump, who has the support of Evangelicals, returning as the President.

Many twitter users have deemed America to be pro-Christian in the light of the prayer being held. A large majority of the enthusiasts have even called for a similar practice at the Euros, being conducted now.

Pastor Emilio Aguero Esgaib, right, during the inaugural ceremony of Copa America 2024.
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Many of them have pointed out that Islamic prayers were held while the World Cup was held in Qatar last year and nobody had a problem with that. This furore is only against Christianity is what they maintain.

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The New Indian Express