It may not be a schism as profound as the Protestant Reformation but followers of one Argentine “church” are debating over whether to stay or join a breakaway “sect”.
The loyalty of members of the Maradonian Church (named after World Cup-winning soccer legend Diego Maradona) is facing a serious challenge from a group of dissidents. A statement was issued in the name of two hundred former Maradona followers who announced that they have seen the light in the form of Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi.
“Lio is truly the one true ‘D10S’”, read the letter referring to the moniker that is Spanish for "God" and incorporated the player's jersey number "10." The dissidents also noted that Messi “is a better ambassador for Argentine soccer” than Maradona, and that Messi has resisted the numerous “temptations” such as drug abuse that have marred Maradona’s image.
Several Church of Maradona members view the dissidents as traitors and have called on Messi to be “excommunicated.” The latter may be difficult since Lio has been well respected for some time within the Church:
While Maradona is their god, current Argentine soccer super-star Lionel Messi is “El Messias” (The Messiah).Messi refused to comment about the new "church" after he scored a goal in yesterday’s Spanish league victory by Barcelona over Athletic Bilbao. Maradona, meanwhile, has kept his distance from the press since his confrontation on Thursday with opposition fans of the Qatari soccer team he currently coaches.
“Messi is an upstanding person," says (Maradonian Church co-founder Hernán) Amaz. "He was one of the first to take the Maradonian Church T-shirt to Barcelona (Spain) for distributing it among Maradona fans."
Founded in 1998 in the city of Rosario, the estimated 200,000 members of the “football church” use relics including a “goalary” (a faux rosary with 34 beads for the number of goals Maradona scored for Argentina) and are “baptized” by emulating the infamous “Hand of God” goal scored by their hero in the 1986 World Cup.
Video Source – YouTube via Journeyman Pictures
Online Sources – Theopedia, The Telegraph, BBC Sport, Huffington Post, The Guardian, Fox News Latino