(AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)
For many in Argentina, soccer is almost a religion. For a few, it is exactly that.
is home to a religious movement called the Maradonian Church which
venerates former soccer player Diego Armando Maradona as a god.
Founded by three men, Hernán Amez, Alejandro
Verón and Héctor Campomar, in 2001 in the city of Rosario—186 miles from Buenos Aires—the Maradonian Church now claims 200,000 followers,
enrolled online on the official church website, from countries around
the world like the U.S., Mexico, Spain, Afghanistan, Philippines and Australia.
This unusual personality cult “was created
to express and preach throughout the world our love to ‘El Diego,’ who
has given us so much and has worked miracles”, says Amez, one of the
church’s three founding spiritual leaders.
Maradona, popularly known as ‘El Diego’ and
‘El Pelusa’ (The Fuzz, due to his frizzy hair) to millions of sports
fans, is reverently referred to within the church as D10S, a
tetragrammaton resulting from mixing his playing number (10) with the
Spanish word for God (Dios).
In church ceremonies, the Bible has been
replaced by Maradona’s autobiography, and special rites like Maradonian
baptisms, weddings and masses are celebrated on special dates of special
Maradonian significance. “October 30 is the date of birth of the
greatest soccer player ever,” explains Amez. “And for 10 years now, we
have been celebrating the Maradonian Nativity.” (Maradona’s next
birthday will mark the start of the year 51 AD—Anno Diego).