Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Football (Soccer) and Catholicism

Picture of Javier "El Chicharito" Hernandez praying prior to a Mexico match.

If you are one of the few who have been following this blog since its inception then you know that most of the early blog posts contained a lot of football (soccer). And for the record, from now on I will use football to mean soccer. I don't watch or like American football *ducks* so no reason to get those confused.

As I wrote four years ago, (wow...) I played most sports growing up. In fact, I was named female MVP in eight grade because I never shied away from sports... even if it meant I was the only girl playing. I was that tomboy with scraped knees and bruises in skorts. lol. If I hadn't developed this anxiety disorder in high school (and thus having me transfer to a charter school) and/or messed up my right foot, I would've loved to have played football in high school and college. The sport actually helped rebuild the communication between my father and I in the last years of his life. (This story was included in the first Envoy Magazine article I wrote two years ago.) Needless to say, it has a special place in my heart for that and other reasons.

After my father passed away, I lost interest in a lot of things -- including football. Between that and my uber heavy course load, I eventually stopped watching the matches... though only for a couple of months. It wasn't until recently that I started to get back into the sport to the point where I once again prefer watching the matches to sleeping. lol. With Euro 2012 coming up (Go Rep. of Ireland!) as well as the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers (Go, USMNT!) starting this week, I thought it was a good time to finally write this post that I've been wanting to write.

You may not know this but there is a good relationship between football and Catholicism. A few years ago I was excited to learn that Bl. Pope John Paul II was a fan of my favorite football team, Liverpool F.C. as well as Barcelona (my favorite team in the Spanish League.) Liverpool's official website even got the scoop straight from the Vatican that he followed the career of a former goalkeeper who helped the team win the 2005 UEFA Champions League final. As a diehard Reds fan, this made me giddy. Of course, he's not the only Pope to say something on the sport. My beloved Pope Benedict XVI wrote about the importance of the sport (back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) and even gave a list of the teams he was rooting for during the last World Cup. Though he is not as big of a fan as Bl. Pope JP II (though he does like my pick in the German League, Bayern Munich), he still knows how important it is to us and uses it to try to bring us closer to God.

Speaking of the World Cup (see what I did there? ;D), the winners of the last WC (Spain) made sure that the world knew who they were thanking for their triumph. Many of the players and staff dedicated the trophy to Our Lady and to the intercession of saints. The president of the Spanish football association as well as the team's coach dedicated the trophy to St. James. Player David Silva thanked Our Lady of Mount Carmel for the victory. When the team went to Mexico for a friendly match, they took the trophy and dedicated it to Our Lady of Guadalupe. For a country that is becoming more and more appallingly secularized, the team did good and I was proud to be of Spanish heritage when I heard of what they were doing. Before I move on from the last World Cup I also want to make note that Dutch player, Wesley Sneijder, even converted to Catholicism shortly before the World Cup began. Oh yeah! Of course, they are not the only ones who bring faith into the sport.

Watch a match between two predominantly Catholic countries and you'll see the majority of the players doing the sign of the cross as they walk on the pitch. Any of you watch the Brazil vs. Mexico match this past weekend? If so, then you saw the players doing just this. Mexican player Javier "El Chicharito" Hernandez is one of the most outwardly devout players, often kneeling on the pitch to pray mere seconds before it starts. He's done this in British Premier League where he plays for Manchester United. If you read Spanish or don't mind click Google Translate for the translation, in this interview he talks about how proud he is to be Catholic. If you're a fan of the Premier League, you may also be interested to hear that Liverpool FC's Steven Gerrard supposedly named his new baby daughter Lourdes after the town where Our Lady appeared AND that the Vatican recently gave Didier Drogba props for his crediting God for Chelsea's UEFA Champions League win last month. I didn't even know he was Catholic until recently either but this article really made me happy. A few years ago I wrote about how Italian Nicolas Legrottaglie and Brazilian Kaka (though he is not Catholic) were those outspoken against pre-martial sex, crediting their faith for their decisions to be chaste until they married.

Even in this country, where it's predominantly Protestant, we have our fair share of Catholic footballers. Eddie Gaven of the Columbus Crew as well as Luke Vercollone of the Charleston Battery belong to Catholic Athletes for Christ. Luke wrote a great article about his career and his vocation for Envoy Magazine. If you haven't already read it, I strongly suggest that you do. I also recently discovered a great website called Blessed 2 Play in which Eddie was interviewed about his faith (great 30 minute audio interview that includes the story of how he and his wife met... and how his wife converted to Catholicism). Also, I don't know if you remember but Chase Hilgenbrinck left the New England Revolution to become a priest. Oh yes, it's possible to have a priestly vocation and still love the game as the recent "clerical World Cup" news shows us. And one more piece of trivia for you... a Vatican City football team does indeed exist. I checked it out.

I do have so many other links and players I could talk about but maybe for another post. I think y'all get it. If you want to read an amusing post about how soccer is like Catholicism, go here. It's pretty spot on and I appreciated the comparisons as a Catholic.

And this is my post. I know, it's a lot of links but I do my research and I've been saving these links for a while now. I will undoubtedly occasionally write about the sport so y'all been warned. lol. I will try not to go overboard with it because I can become quite passionate about the sport -- and if you follow me on twitter you know that I can get a little too into it. lol. I hope some of you learned something new. :)

Anyway, I really want to take some time to pray before my mom gets home. I like my solo time to pray. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless! :D


Catholic Cookie Jar said...

I am going to share this with my husband as well as the post about soccer's comparison to Catholicism haha! He'll also really appreciate the fact that Pope JPII was a Liverpool fan.

Lindsay said...

I just recently found out where the soccer/football divide comes from. Apparently the official name of the sport is "association football." "Soccer" is short for "association." it's similar to a woman named Victoria going by either Vicki or Tori: same base, different abbreviations.