June 27, 2012

A Pilgrim at Euro 2012

Cesare Prandelli

Even though I love this game, I’m not a big soccer fan, except for international tournaments such as the Champions League, the European Championships, and the World Cup. That’s why I’m watching—and enjoying—Euro 2012, and not just because Italy are doing very well, though that helps, of course—by the way, hey German friends, how do you feel about next Thursday?

The Camaldolese Monastery near Krakow
Photo courtesy: Nicko's Photos
Yet that’s not what I want to talk about right now, not strictly speaking, at least. In fact, I want to talk about pilgrimages… Well, in reality the (two) pilgrimages in question are those made by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and his staff during the Euro 2012 soccer championships. The first time, after beating Ireland and reaching the Euro quarter-finals, they went to a Camaldolese monastery in the middle of the night (a 13-mile walk):

The Camaldolese monks - whose origins are in Italy but who run a monastery outside Krakow - met the squad before the tournament and the team staff promised to make a pilgrimage to the monastery if they got out of Group C.
No one expected coach Prandelli, his backroom team and federation vice president and former midfielder Demetrio Albertini to take the walk at 3am local time, shortly after arriving back in Krakow from beating the Irish 2-0 in Poznan.
The federation said in a statement that the group, who first 'had to deal with the jokes of the players... who went off to bed', took three-and-a-half hours to complete the walk and returned to the team base at 7am - by car. [Mail Online]

The second time, after beating England and reaching the semifinals, they went to a Franciscan convent near Wieliczka (a 7-mile nocturnal walk):

Italy's attacking spirit on the field is proving hard to beat. Coach Cesare Prandelli's religious commitment is also holding strong.
For the second time at the European Championship, Prandelli and his entire coaching staff celebrated a victory with a nocturnal pilgrimage to a monastery near the squad's base outside Krakow.
After the win over Ireland last week, the 14-member group embarked on a 21-kilometer (13-mile) trek at 3 a.m. to a Camaldolese monastery. This time they got a later start and walked only 11 kilometers (7 miles) to a closer monastery.
The reason for the delay and the shorter trip early Monday was because Italy required extra time and a penalty shootout to beat England in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Also, anti-doping authorities held up forward Mario Balotelli for an hour, delaying the flight back from Kiev, Ukraine.
The team plane touched down in Krakow at about 4 a.m. Then once the squad reached the team hotel in Wieliczka, the players went to bed and the staff — including security members and other officials — embarked on their pilgrimage. [SFGate]

The Franciscan Convent near Wieliczka
Photo courtesy: franciszkanie.pl
Nice story, isn’t it? In these times of doubt and skepticism, here is a man of faith. Of true and simple faith. Here is a man who lost his wife—after a long and painful illness—in the middle of a season in 2007, but who did not lost his “center.” Here is how he described—in an interview he gave to Jesus, an Italian Catholic magazine, and eventually republished in la Repubblica newspaper—his own faith experience: “I grew up in a believing family. Then, when they reach adolescence, many make different choices. Instead, I kept on believing and practicing. I live my spirituality by attending Mass, but not only by that.” Asked to explain what he meant by that “not only, he answered: “Well, I’m sorry but I don’t like very much to talk about what I do, they are very private things, talking about them makes me feel ill at ease…, I don’t want to put them on display, nor do I want people to think that I want to put them on display, because I don’t have to sell anything to anyone—I just think people have to do what they feel they have to do…”

Well, what to say? Not that I think that prayers and pilgrimages may grant you victory over your enemies, er, I mean opponents—that would be a bit too easy, wouldn’t it? And yet, it is written: “If God with us who can be against us?” So if I were you, my German (and Portuguese, and Spanish) friends, I’d be very careful from now on—and don’t say I hadn’t told you so! But that being said, may the best team win!