Argentine Football Club in Heaven as Fan Becomes Pope
Fans of San Lorenzo, one of Argentina's most popular football clubs, are in heaven: one of their own just became pope, a feather in the cap for a team founded by a priest.
"The new pope, from San Lorenzo, is more important even than Diego Maradona or (tango singer) Carlos Gardel," enthused Marcelo Ladelfa, invoking the most Argentinian of superlatives.
The 45-year-old worker admitted he was bowled over by the cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's election as leader of the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic Church.
A longtime San Lorenzo fan who lived near the club, Bergoglio is now Pope Francis and, said Ladelfa, "the most illustrious person in the history of Argentina."
The pope is member number 88.235N of the San Lorenzo club, a first division team also known as the Cyclones or the Saints of Boedo.
He was born in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Boedo, where the club was historically headquartered and grew up in the nearby Flores neighborhood, where it later moved.
San Lorenzo has won 11 national titles, but those triumphs were a long time ago. With a pope in its fan base, it now has reason to puff its chest with pride again.
Alberto Giorgi, a 70-year-old doctor specializing in sports medicine, said he wept at the news that Bergoglio, next to whom he remembered once sitting on a subway, had been elected pope.
"I'm a cry baby, but that moment was moving. I couldn't believe it," he said. "We still can't believe it."
The club's website (www.sanlorenzo.com.ar) has the pope's membership card on display and a picture that shows him holding up the club's blue and red shirt.
Walter Nieto, 77, said he will never forget the day Bergoglio blessed the club's new chapel in 2011 and called the club's "Book of Gold" his second Bible.
The club's religious links go way back. It was founded in 1908 by a parish priest, Lorenzo Massa, with the aim of getting young boys off the streets and educating them through sports.
To this day, San Lorenzo fans are known as "Crows," after the black cassock of the club's founding priest.
"In this house we are all 'Crows,'" said Liliana Di Capua, a 45-year-old office worker who lives a few streets over from the club.