Soccer: the new Religion


For Italians, Sunday is a day of worship. Being Catholic myself, this does not seem to be very startling or revealing. Many of us would say, "Of course, the Roman Catholic Church's leader, the Pope, resides in the peninsula. Sunday is the Sabbath." However, Sunday is also holy because of soccer. Since the 1940s, Sunday afternoons have been traditionally the most prevalent day for soccer matches. This is no coincidence. Italy's strong history in the sport has been intertwined with Catholicism. 

Beginning in the early 1920s, soccer grew in Italy through the mechanism of the Church. With poverty common in rural Italy, there existed very few, if any, organizations or even coaches to establish leagues in the countryside. In its place, the Church clergymen, priests in particular, served as the coaches and quickly organized small teams for youths to participate in. As a result, Sunday naturally became a day for both mass and games (Armstrong 92).

This unique relationship has led to an amazing  effect on Italian society. The line between Catholicism and soccer has become ever-increasingly more blurred. Often, soccer has played a role in the most holy of religious celebrations. This was particularly evident in 1987. That year, Napoli won their first league championship ever. Coincidently, it fell on the same day as the popular procession of the Madonna dell' Arco. Because of the overlap, the procession became one of both religious and soccer worship at the same time. Images of Napoli's best player, Diego Maradona, were next to images of San Gennaro (the patron of the city) and Madonna. In addition to this, soccer fans were found wearing bishop outfits to the final game (Armstrong 93)

Because the overwhelming majority of Italians are Catholic, soccer has easily translated into the political life in Italy. Numerous times, politicians and judges have highlighted the membership of key soccer players in order to win over the support of the general public. In 1993, this became clearly evident when politician Silvio Berlusconi, chairman also of soccer club AC Milan, used the famous Italian soccer slogan "Forza Italia!" (Come on Italy!) as his political slogan (Armstrong 91).

The Church and Italy have become one and the same in many respects. In modern times, soccer has evolved to be an identification for the people of who they are and what they hold dear. The sport, if it can be called that still, has demonstrated the beliefs and traditions of the Italians. For this society, life has become ritualized within the context of not only the Roman Catholics Church but through soccer, too.


Italians are well-known for their creative and original soccer chants. This video is a very extensive showing of some of the catchiest soccer chants from Italy. Personally, the two that start at 2:24 are my favorites. I think it is the movement of the crowd that makes them so great. Enjoy.