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The Deacon's Bench

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The World Cup isn’t the only soccer tournament in the world, you know.

The New York Times has this look at one in the shadow of the Vatican:

On a recent weekend morning, a crowd gathered on a field behind St. Peter’s Basilica to cheer as a team of South American and Italian soccer players faced off against a team of Americans. Some fans played guitars and drums, while others dressed up like superheroes and Vikings.

But this was not a World Cup qualifying match, or even your average amateur soccer match. It was the finals of the Clericus Cup, a four-year-old tournament between teams of priests and seminarians from Rome’s many Catholic institutions.

Which explained why, as soon as the theme from the movie “Gladiator” faded away on the sound system, players from both teams gathered on the field to sing a Latin prayer to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. Then the real competition began.

As is quite often the case in soccer, providence seemed to favor the South Americans and Italians of the Redemptoris Mater team, from the seminary of the same name. They beat the perhaps aptly named North American Martyrs from the North American College, which trains priests from the United States and Australia.

For the second year in a row, the winning goal in the 1-0 match was scored by Davide Tisato, 26, a fifth-year seminarian at Redemptoris Mater who played semiprofessional soccer in northern Italy before leaving his economics studies to enroll in the seminary.

But even the almost inevitable prospect of losing did not stop the American spectators from cheering. Some seminarians were dressed like Superman and Wolverine. Carmelo Morales, 27, a seminarian from Amarillo, Tex., was dressed like Captain America and sported a goatee. “We do it just to get excited for the game,” he said with a smile.

The Clericus Cup was founded in 2007 by Msgr. Claudio Paganini, who represents the Italian Bishops Conference at the Centro Sportivo Italiano, the Catholic sports association. Monsignor Paganini did so at the urging of one of the Vatican’s most serious soccer fans: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and a former archbishop of Genoa, who is a devoted fan of Turin’s Juventus.

Check out the rest right here.

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