Column Date 2007-10-21

It's good to have God on your side

A friend pointed out that my columns for the past two years have ignored the spiritual side of life.

Aside from a piece about the Sheriff of Pinellas County, Florida, who added a new rule to his department’s handbook (“Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery”) we’ve barely mentioned religion.

But here’s some news that’s hard to ignore: Pope Benedict XVI recently blessed a soccer team in Italy – A.C. Ancona, a demoralized team in Italy’s third division.

Why did the Pope go out of his way to bless a soccer team?

Well, after being racked by corruption as well as fan violence, all the A.C. Ancona players recently signed a Christian code of ethics.

This all started when a lay Catholic group, called the Centro Sportivo Italiano, made a deal with the owners.

Centro Sportivo promised to bring in new team sponsors (read: cash), if the A.C. Ancona team, including players, managers, and trainers, would adhere to this new Christian code.

The goal, Centro Sportivo announced, was “to make the club a model of ethical competition”.

This is not a bad idea, especially given the fact that, last year, police investigators found that owners, players and referees all over Italy were involved in fixing games, corruption and illegal betting. And A.C. Ancona’s previous president was jailed for accounting fraud.

Now, in addition to scoring goals, the players are required to play “family-friendly” games without screaming, cursing or other unfriendly actions. And no abusive signs or banners are allowed in the stadium.

There’s more: The players agreed to a salary cap. Management agreed to cut ticket prices. And club profits will be re-invested in projects to help Catholic youth in Italy and other countries.

Wow! Is that a revolutionary way to run a sports franchise, or what?

I’m keeping an eye on A.C. Ancona to see if God is really on their side, and whether the honest and true can actually defeat the mean and sneaky on the soccer pitch.

And I’m hoping that this is the start of a movement: can you imagine a Muslim team, a Baptist team, a Mormon team and a Jewish team, all battling, ethically, for soccer supremacy?

I wonder whose side God will be on?

By the way, Italy being Italy, there’s another little news item you might have missed:

A fourth-division Italian soccer team, named Trento Calcio, has accepted a sponsorship deal with an Austrian-based company, Casa Bianca.

Casa Bianca runs a brothel.

©2007 Peter Tannen