Ever Heard of the Clericus Cup? Me Neither... Until Now
The Clericus Cup. It's a soccer tournament played at the Vatican. Most of the participants are seminarians, so it's known as the "clerical equivalent of soccer's World Cup."
Yea, I've never heard of it either.
That is, until my friend Janelle Peters submitted an article about the tournament for the edited volume that I am working on, Gods, Games, and Globalization.
She also recently published a very interesting piece on the cup over at Paste. An excerpt...
As a tournament that priests and seminarians refer to as their World Cup, the Clericus Cup remains firmly rooted in the Vatican City and Rome. The hundreds of seminarians who participate each year come from dozens of countries, but there are no 'away' games—all the seminarians have a home in Rome. And it's not just any home, but one with student-priests-gone-wild, chanting songs and wearing flags and country-specific costumes (Captain America, the Super Mario Brothers, et al.). There are even Star Wars-themed homage videos in which aspiring goalkeeper priests get kidnapped by the LA Galaxy, much to the chagrin of their Clericus Cup teams. (Thankfully, the LA Galaxy has never actually attempted to poach any player while he was competing for the Cup's trophy of a hat-wearing soccer ball with cleats.)
The tradition of having soccer matches among the pontifical colleges in Rome is much older than the Clericus Cup, of course. Fr. Jim Mulligan started an eight-team tournament called the Rome Cup in 2003, when he was a seminarian at Pontifical Beda College. Among other teams, the North American Martyrs (unsurprisingly) have a history of trials and tribulations. None of that history, however, has impacted their successive Clericus Cup wins. Even the Martyrs have risen to soccer glory, dominating the 2012 and 2013 years.
Though not every player in the Cup is a priest, the hope is that the seminarians and priests on the teams will direct the play toward more lofty spiritual goals, and to help the personal growth of the friars in cleats. Previously, it was also partly to help restore decency to the game after the Calciopoli scandals and to convince world soccer organizations such as FIFA to adopt the so-called “sin cards.” For the Clericus Cup, these blue cards put a player in the “sin bin” for five minutes.You can read the entire article here. It's a terrific story of a religious institution intersecting with an athletic institution that both have a rich history and global reach.