RIO DE JANEIRO — Pope Francis spoke the language of Brazil’s soccer-mad youth Saturday, telling them that being a good Catholic is like training to play soccer. Only he added a seemingly blasphemous twist, telling them Jesus offers them “something more than the World Cup.”
In the land of Pele that will host the World Cup in 2014, the joke might have gone over poorly coming from a pope from Argentina, Brazil’s nemesis on the pitch.
But the crowd on Copacabana beach for the World Youth Day vigil cheered with delight.
“In order to enjoy soccer, you’ve got to have beer, you’ve got to have beautiful women and maybe drugs. How many beer cans do you see around here?” said Douglas Junior Segatini, a 35-year-old nurse from Sao Paulo state and “lifelong fan” of the Santos soccer team. “None, and that’s because Christ is better than any alcohol, better than any drug, better than any match.”
Francis is a lifelong fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo and has been a member (ID No. 88235) since 2008.
On this trip he has added to his already sizeable collection of soccer jerseys given to him by the faithful.
When he gets back to Rome, he’ll be treated to a friendly on Aug. 14 between Argentina and Italy organized in honor of his election.