Vienna Cathedral explores devotion to soccer
VIENNA (Reuters) - With an earnest display of trophies, scarves, Orthodox icons and chalices, an exhibition at the museum of Vienna's 14th century Catholic cathedral is out to show what football owes to religion.
Players such as Argentina's Diego Maradona are venerated as saints of the modern age, the exhibition explains, and fans frequently set up shrines or collect "relics" of their favourite teams or players.
"There are many parallels between the cult of football and the rituals of the Christian Church," said museum director Bernhard Boehler.
Kissing a football trophy after the moment of victory recalls the kissing of Orthodox icons, while bearing a cup aloft to a stadium of cheering fans is a profane re-enactment of the displaying of the Body of Christ during the Catholic mass, according to the curators.
The show also displays the "I belong to Jesus" undershirt worn by AC Milan's Kaka, and highlights players who speak openly about their religious beliefs.
The reliance of players such as Maradona on a mix of skill and the grace of God, have often baffled and intimidated non-believing opponents. His "hand of God" goal of 1986 has gone down in football folklore.
Boehler hopes the show will attract all types of visitors.
"Typical football fans might be afraid of museums while the traditional museum-going public might look to avoid football supporters, but we are hoping to bring both sides together with this exhibition," he said.
Austria's Catholic church is eager to tap into the excitement surrounding the Euro 2008 football tournament and has its own programme of cultural events, services, and even a special slogan for use during the tournament: "The Church -- on the ball for 2008 years".
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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