By Lauren Colegrove
ROME — The North American Martyrs won their third game of the season in the Clericus Cup soccer league March 16 and will be advancing to the spring playoffs. The team from the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, is defending its title as winner of last year’s tournament, vying once again for the coveted trophy featuring a soccer ball wearing a clerical hat.
The Clericus Cup, which is now in its seventh season, brings together seminarians and priests in Rome on the fields of the Pontifical Oratory of St. Peter to take part in feats of sportsmanship and compete for the title of champions while reflecting on what it means to be in the service of Christ.
Gregory Gerhart, a seminarian from the Diocese of Austin, Texas, said that one of the benefits of being in the league is “competing with other men who are preparing or already have given their lives to Christ and to the church.”
“Our goal as a team is to grow in the love of Christ,” Gerhart said in an email interview. “The competition allows us to enjoy fraternity with one another and enjoy the gift of God’s creation.”
With 16 teams consisting of 355 players from 56 countries, the fraternity is worldwide. The majority of the players on the North American Martyrs team are from the United States, but there are a few teammates from Australia and one from England.
The North American Martyrs won their first game against the Spanish College 6-0, “due in large part to our younger team,” Gerhart said. The American team also won against St. Paul’s College in penalty shots after tying in regulation. Even though they played in a downpour of rain, Gerhart said that didn’t stop the team members from having fun.
The Martyrs are well known for their loud and enthusiastic fan base and “are supported by our brother seminarians who come to the games dressed in superhero costumes,” Gerhart said. “They chant, yell and sing the entire game.”
On March 16 the Martyrs played against the Pontifical Urban College– a rivalry match because of the proximity of the two seminaries on the Janiculum Hill near the Vatican– and won 2-1. After a break for Easter, the quarter finals will be played April 13 and the finals will be held May 18.
Even amid the friendly competition, the camaraderie brings the players and fans closer to God, which is the ultimate goal of the tournament. “It is a beautiful expression of the priestly fraternity we hope to share after our ordination,” Gerhart said.