Back to the Vatican

Never mind the Champions League, here's the Clericus Cup! Over to the very well connected Nick Robbins.

A little while back I wrote about the Clericus Cup, the Vatican’s premier football tournament and with the whole thing set to kick off again for 2011 in a few days time I believed it was time to revisit it.

The whole thing often receives a lot of press attention – but rarely goes beyond the idea that priests playing football is something amusing, something I fell into doing in my initial piece. I set about trying to get an interview with a representative of the tournament and ended up corresponding with Mr Mario Majano, a veteran of the tournament and a seminarian based in the Pontifical North American Colleges in the Papal sovereign territory.

Firstly, I want to thank Mr Majano for taking the time to answer my questions – I’m pretty sure he couldn’t understand why I would want to talk to him about football but I’m very glad he did. And, secondly, I would like to think that other people who read this take away what I did from the interview – football is a truly global game and, potentially, a great source of unity among many disparate people.

NR – Please introduce yourself.

MM - My name is Mario Majano. I am a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington in my 3rd year at the Pontifical North American Colleges (PNAC).

NR – for a little background information-, where were you born, and what made you join the Church?

MM - I was born in Rockville, Maryland although my parents are both natives of El Salvador. I was baptized and raised as a Catholic.

NR - Have you been a keen sportsman throughout your life? What was the highest level you played any sport/soccer at?

MM - I enjoy sports very much. I grew up playing soccer.  I played up until high school where I played for the school team. In college I played on a Rugby team for my University. Once I joined seminary, I started playing soccer again competitively.

NR - What does the average day consist of for you in your current position?

MM - As a Seminarian, my day is pretty fixed. We get up to pray and go to Mass at 6:15 am, then we head off to the different Universities in Rome where we study Theology, usually for four hours, but it depends on each seminarians schedule. We return and have Lunch together at the Seminary, and then we have time to do personal study or just personal free time until 6:45pm when we pray evening prayer together. The afternoon is usually when guys will get together to play sports since it is the best time available to do so. There are also many events that occur from time to time that we are required to attend for our Formation. That would be a typical day I suppose.

NR - When did you hear of the Clericus Cup?

MM - I first heard of the Clericus Cup once I arrived here in Rome. The students here at the North American College told me about it and got me interested in playing.

NR – What is the role of sport in the seminaries?

MM - Sports are a big part of seminaries. It is a great way to relax, get some exercise, or just have some healthy competition. Men who enter seminary come from all different backgrounds and for many of us, at some point or another, we played a sport. Just because we enter seminary does not mean we stop enjoying sport. It is also a great way to bring together the larger community. When you live with 200 men, it can be hard to see everyone often. Sporting events can be a way of bringing everyone out, both those playing or even the spectators and fans, and having a good time.

We often have other seminaries come by and play us in a friendly match of soccer even off-season. Some of the teams are the same ones we play in the tournament, others are those we study with who maybe don’t have enough to participate in the official Clericus Cup.

NR – What role have you played in the Clericus Cup?

MM - Both as a player and as a Manager. I played my first year here, but due to an injury last year I didn’t play - but I did help as the team Manager .

Q8 - How is one selected for the team to represent their college in the Clericus Cup?

MM - Usually anyone interested shows up and participates in a few off-season games. Then anyone who is interested in playing at a more competitive level will make a commitment, talk with the Coach and start to attend practice.

For our team, since, Soccer is still growing in the States, we still have smaller numbers though interest is growing. Since our Roster can only hold 22 men, the Coach would use his discretion as to which names to submit. That is how it works here at least. Other colleges may have there own system for picking their 22.

NR - How seriously is the Clericus Cup taken?

MM - It is a pretty competitive tournament. Having come in 2nd place two years in a row, I can tell you it is taken very seriously. We have practices at least twice a week and every so often we schedule a practice match with another team to help us measure our progress. The Clericus League consists of the various Seminaries and Religious houses throughout Rome, so everyone is either a Seminarian or a Priest all varying in ages. Skill level and fitness level varies a bit but despite our busy schedule, every team puts in a good bit of time into training for this Cup.

NR - What is it about the Clericus Cup do you think that captures the imagination of both those in, and those outside, of the Church?

MM - I think many people have a preconception of Priests and those studying to be priests, which does not include them playing competitively. Yet, we do. We love the game and are all yearning for that chance to help our team toward that cup. That is, I think, why those who play enjoy it so much. It is that same passion for the game as in any other league, it just happens to be Priests playing it. It is also a great testament to why this sport is the world’s sport. People from all over the world come together for this game. Even Priests and seminarians

NR – Final question - do you follow any major soccer leagues? If so who do you support?

MM - As much as possible I do. Barcelona from the Spanish Primera is my team. Here in Italy I have always supported the local Roma.

For those who are interested, the fifth edition of the Clericus Cup is due to start later this month. Obviously I will be rooting for the PNAC as they seek to gain the trophy for the first time. Youtube highlights are available and a cursory google search will turn up plenty of information.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @robbinsnick