April 27, 2018 / 4:59 PM / 2 months ago

The hand of God touches Messi in Argentine Sistine Chapel

(This version of the April 27th story corrects Leonardo Da Vinci to Michelangelo in second paragraph)

A boy plays soccer as images of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona are seen depicted on the ceiling in a recreation of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting, by Argentine artist Santiago Barbeito, at Sportivo Pereyra club in Buenos Aires, Argentina April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - An Argentine football club has recreated the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of its gymnasium, with Diego Maradona as God, Lionel Messi as Adam and a host of angels that include Mario Kempes, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Batistuta.

The mural at Club Sportivo Pereyra in Buenos Aires cost around $20,000 and was inspired by the famous Michelangelo mural in the Vatican.

The Argentina version was paid for by donations and is designed to both honour previous generations of Argentine footballers and inspire their heirs. Children play at the club for free and the club president said he hopes they can draw inspiration from seeing their heroes looking down on them.

“We were all kids and the ones that loved football wanted to be like our idols,” Sebastian Garcia told Reuters. “When a move doesn’t come off you look to the heavens, and when you ask God for a helping hand you have so many of them to choose from on this ceiling.”

Maradona, whose inspired performances helped Argentina to win the 1986 World Cup, is considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all-time and is often referred to as El Dios - the God - in his homeland.

He famously dubbed his handball goal against England in 1986 as “the Hand of God.”

Messi, meanwhile, has won the Ballon d’Or world player of the year award five times and has picked up countless trophies with La Liga side Barcelona.

However, he has yet to win a title with Argentina, something he aims to resolve at the World Cup in Russia this year.

Reporting by Juan Bustamante. Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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