Rome's Pontifical North American College is only two wins away from capturing the clerical equivalent of soccer’s World Cup for the first time ever.
“There is nothing better than a bunch of guys getting together, trying to be better at something and, I think, the soccer field is a great outlet for that,” said seminarian and striker John Gibson.
The player made his remarks to CNA following his side’s 4-2 victory over the Pontifical Urbanianum University in the quarter-finals of the Clericus Cup, Saturday April 21. The semi-finals now take place this Saturday April 28.
Now into its sixth year, the Clericus Cup in an annual soccer tournament for the pontifical seminaries and universities in Rome. Matches take place on the Knights of Columbus playing fields behind the Vatican and in the shadow of the dome of St. Peters basilica.
“The Church gives value to sport as an instrument of pastoral formation,” said tournament organizer, Felice Alborghetti, “so, we see the priests and seminarians who find themselves in the university, who besides finding a beautiful game on the field are also able to express important religious sentiment.”
The United States team goes by the name of the North American Martyrs and – patriotically – the uniform is red, white and blue. Despite two runner-up positions in previous years, the Martyrs have yet to lift the Clericus Cup.
There on the field success is, in part, inspired by the loud and colorful support they bring to each game with many fellow seminarians attending.
“It is a lot of fun,” said supporter Deacon Alex Roche, “It is just a great way to bring the whole community together and to get everybody excited about one thing and, you know, just to get people outside, having fun, cheering for their brothers.”
The U.S. side take their sport seriously with coaching sessions twice a week on the artificial turf of the North American College’s full-size soccer pitch. “It is worth it,” said Deacon David Santos, “we see the soccer field as a microcosm of a community.”
He believes that soccer teaches the team numerous lessons that they will implement hopefully implement as priests including “fraternity, camaraderie, fairness, honesty, integrity.”
“Those are definitely things that we practice on the field that one day, God willing, we will take with us into the priesthood.’