In a not necessarily respectful, but nonetheless instructive, piece, Paul Doyle at the Guardian runs down “10 Pious Types” in (European) sports.
Here are three Catholics he covers:
“Holy shirt — Athletes of Christ, 1979: Former Brazil No. 1 Joao Leite didn’t merely join a church, he established one. Already known as ‘God’s Goalkeeper’ because of his adhesion to the Evangelist Church, in 1979 Leite formed the Athletes of Christ movement, took to presenting opponents with copies of the Bible before games and regularly daubed ‘Jesus Saves’ on his jersey. When officials eventually banned him from altering his shirt, he turned the other cheek and sniffed: ‘They can take Christ off my shirt, but nobody can remove him from my heart.’”
“Sunday service — Swindon Town, 1974: The ?rst Football League matches ever to be played on a Sunday took place on 20 January 1974. Eleven days later, Swindon Town’s 19-year-old goalkeeper Jimmy Allan, a devout Catholic, became the ?rst British player to refuse to play on the Sabbath on religious grounds. ‘I fully respect his position,’ insisted Swindon manager Les Allen. How true that statement was became a moot point — the keeper did not get a regular place in the Swindon ?rst team until 1976.”
“Water sports — Italy, 2002: Veteran Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni, an ardent admirer of the Opus Dei sect, carried a bottle of holy water with him into the dugout when in charge of his national team at the 2002 World Cup. He is currently attempting to perform the miracle of turning the Republic of Ireland into world champions.”