Clericus Cup: Soccer for the God-fearing set
The Clericus Cup, a Vatican-sponsored and Catholic-specific soccer tourney, continues until June with 16 teams and 311 players. My question is, who's watching the "flock" and hearing confession while these guys are away? The flabbier, less soccer-crazed clergy? I suppose so. My favourite quote is this one:
The tournament is also a second chance for many clergymen who left promising soccer careers to follow their spiritual calling, said Marco Rosales, a Mexican seminarian who coaches the Mater Ecclesiae team.
"Some on the team had a chance to play professionally, but the Lord called them to His team," he said.
In Italy soccer is a hallowed game, taken almost as seriously as Catholicism, and the players were all business once the whistle was blown.
Amid screams from the coaches, pious slogans from the small crowd and T-shirts invoking the protection of the Virgin Mary, a motley crew of Latin Americans, Africans and Asians from the Collegio Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church College) took on an all-Brazilian team fielded by the Gregorian University.
In a miraculous upset, the young Mater Ecclesiae players trounced the more experienced but portly Brazilians 6-0 as their fans chanted: "The Mother of the Church wants a goal!"
The game had its share of hard tackles and rough play, with the first goal coming from a penalty kick - the second in the match.
Still, in the end it was all handshakes and smiles between the teams, in what officials and players hope will set a good example for Italian professional soccer, which has been recently marred by fan violence and scandal.
The Clericus Cup should "reaffirm the educational and pastoral value of sport," and "strengthen feelings of true friendship and fruitful sharing," said a message from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's No. 2 official.