Meet: Clericus Cup Soccer Champion Martin Rodriguez
For the first time in the soccer championship’s six-year history, the United States has won the Clericus Cup — the championship trophy hotly contested contested by 16 teams from European seminaries.
The North American Martyrs, the team made up of US seminarians (and one each from England, Australia, and Haiti) at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, beat an international crew, and last year’s champions, the Pontifical Gregorian University at a final score of 3-0 May 12.
Fans dressed as Captain America, Spiderman, an Indian Chief, and other colorful characters cheered them on to victory, according to Catholic News Service.
Martin Rodriguez from St. Mary’s Parish in Indianapolis is a member of the championship team. Finishing his third year of Theology at the college, he will be ordained a deacon on June 23. Born in Mexico, Rodriguez moved to Indianapolis in 2002 and graduated from Pike High School in 2004, attending Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary before being sent to the North American College.
Rodriguez, whose favorite soccer team is Chelsea and whose favorite player is Javier Hernandez (Manchester United) has played soccer all his life, but this is his first time in an organized league. “I grew up playing soccer in the streets with my neighbors,” he says. “They were always bigger than me, so I had to work on my skill and speed.”
He says what he likes most about studying at the North American College is living “so close with the past and the present of the Church. We have the opportunity to see the places where saints were martyred and to walk the same streets they walked. It’s almost like touching the past. At the same time, the Holy Father stands as the representative of the Church of the past and the Church of the present.
“At the same time, the Holy Father stands as the representative of the Church of the past and the Church of the present,” he adds. “Being so close to Him is what I like the most about living in Rome.”
He says his biggest surprise about moving to study in Europe was the generosity of people in the Catholic Church. “It does not matter where you come from or where you are in the world,” he says, “when they know you are a seminarian they love you instantly. They want to give us the best they have because they know that we are leaving everything for Jesus Christ and His Church.”
The Clericus Cup is about more than fun and good exercise, Rodriguez says. “I would like people to know that the Clericus Cup is a tournament that unites us even more as a house. It builds friendships not only among the players, but also among the fans and every American living in Rome that knows about this Cup.
“Also, the Clericus Cup shows how amazing and intense the life of a seminarian or priest can be. I think when people think of guys in seminary, they think of a bunch of guys inside the chapel praying all day long or buried in the library reading books. We do pray and we do study, but we also do other things like playing soccer at a competitive level with guys from 100 different countries. Now, that’s a Church league! It is simply amazing.”
Photos courtesy Christopher Brashears (PNAC PHOTO), used with permission.