American College nabs championship title in clerical soccer series

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ROME - For the second straight year, the Pontifical North American College took home the championship title in Rome's Clericus Cup soccer series.

Captain America, Uncle Sam, Batman and Robin, Wolverine, the Mario Brothers and a fluffy yellow chicken were part of the flag-waving crowd that exploded into cheers when the NAC Martyrs beat the Legionaries of Christ's Mater Ecclesiae College, 1-0, in the final playoff May 18.

Andrew Mattingly, a second-year seminarian from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., scored the winning goal, dedicating it to Mary, the Mother of God.

The secret to the team's success, he said, was prayer and practicing twice a week on the college's own field.

"Our faith unites us even more" than the dedicated practice sessions, which always began with "a moment of reflection and prayer," he told the Italian Sports Center, the Catholic sports association that founded and organizes the annual soccer series.

It would be the last time the team coach, Father David Santos of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., would get to hold aloft the trophy - a cleat-wearing soccer ball sporting a wide-brimmed clerical hat known as a "saturno."

"I'm heading back to the United States where I'll go to a parish in Newark in New Jersey," he told organizers covering the event.

"It was wonderful to win again," said Father Santos, who helped coach the Martyrs' team to victory in 2012, fourth place in 2011 and second place in 2010. The NAC Martyrs also finished second in the Clericus Cup in 2009, and third in 2008.

Msgr. James F. Checchio, the college's rector said, "after two losses in the finals, we needed two victories."

Mark Pavern a second-year seminarian for the Archdiocese of New York and a native of Manchester, England, was awarded "Player of the Year" and given a red stole at the end of the game.

The Clericus Cup tournament for priests and seminarians studying in Rome was established in 2006 and first played in 2007; the seventh season saw 355 seminarians and religious from 56 countries playing.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970