Friday, September 08, 2006

Soccermania: From Cradle to Grave and Beyond?

In a country where soccer has replaced the Church, the most devout of all are surely the fans of the Boca Juniors soccer team. The Boca sacraments commence at birth and now stretch to the grave.

Boca soccer moms and dads already swaddle their children in the blue-and-yellow emblematic colors of their favorite Buenos Aires team. The Boca faithful not only can attend the games in their Boca apparel, but they can get to the Boca temple--La Bombonera, by Boca taxi, and celebrate the frequent victories with Boca wine.

Well, now they can even rest in Boca peace a private cemetery plot dedicated to players, managers, and “the most rabid fans.” The blessed few who get in this limited sacred space will no doubt first purchase one of the coffins with the recognizable blue-and-yellow shield for the perfect final touch.

Orlando Salvestrini, a Boca club official at the inauguration of the cemetery plots, observed that this will help address the barrage of requests to scatter ashes of deceased fans at La Bombonera. The first two plots were filled yesterday by the remains of two former players, with a Catholic priest on hand at the Parque Pereyra Iraola cemetery to officiate.

No one dared ask him the obvious question: Will they now go to Boca heaven?

Who can doubt that God is a Boca fan? After all, didn’t he give a special Hand to team supertar Diego Maradona during World Cup play 20 years ago, allowing them to beat England? (Did this also demonstrate His preference for Argentine soccer over Argentine war? He apparently lifted nary a finger to help the South Americans beat the very same First World rivals in the Malvinas/Falklands War.)

So maybe God really has designated a special celestial salon for Boca fans. . . that is if He was not put out by those who have strayed to the Church of Maradona []. Founded by two Rosario sportswriters, it celebrates the Nativity of the Boca star player, renumbering the dates from his birth year, thus converting 2006 AD into 42 DD (“despu├ęs de Diego”).

Its holy commandments include honoring soccer above all else, attending temple events, spreading word of Diego’s miracles, and even naming sons after their idol (who is worshipped en ausencia, as Maradona maintains a respectful distance from this worship).

Before you start laughing, note that the Maradonian Church already boasts 20,000 international members and continues to grow. That’s more than you can say for the Roman Church here. Maybe the Church could learn a few things from the Boca Juniors and Maradona about how to inspire life-long believers!

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