They’re wondrous at crosses

Ernesto Ortiz, from the new Papa Francisco team, reacts after missing a chance to score against Trefules. Photograph: Victor R. Caivano/AP





Associated Press. via the Guardian
Monday 14 April 2014 09.53 BST

A new Argentinian football team named after Pope Francis and meant to promote non-violence has played their first official match in a regional league … a 2-2 draw in which four players were sent off.

The Papa Francisco team was founded by Jorge Ramirez, an admirer of the pope. It has 47 members and was set up in meetings at Ramirez’s house, located 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Buenos Aires, shortly after the archbishop of the city, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, was named pope. Pope Francis is an avid football fan and a supporter of Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo. He has no official connection to the Papa Francisco club.

The semi-professional team plays in the lower regions of the Argentinian league system, and chose the nickname: ‘The Saint of the South’. The behaviour on the pitch in the first game against Trefules wasn’t particularly saintly, though, as two players from each team were sent off. “Our motto is no hooligans, no violence and no insults,” said Ramirez, the club president.

The club could serve as a much-needed antidote for Argentinian football, which is plagued at all levels by violence and gangs known as barras bravas. Violence is endemic in the Argentinian game, and the Argentinian Football Association has been criticised for doing little to stamp it out.

The club was almost named Real Buenos Aires, in honor of the famous Spanish club Real Madrid, but eventually the idea of naming a club to honor the Argentina-born pope prevailed. The first match was played appropriately in Lujan, a site revered by local Roman Catholics. Its famous Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan could be glimpsed from the playing field.

Several players acknowledged it may be difficult to always be on their best behaviour. But it is clear they will try. “It will be a complicated thing if we insult others,” said midfielder Fabian Gaddi. “But the pope is Argentinian and he knows and understands us.”

Tags: Argentina, Americas, Pope Francis, Religion, The papacy

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