PUEBLA, Mexico – A pair of tall vases carrying soccer balls stand at the entrance to Mexico’s First Maradonian Church and an image of Diego Maradona wearing a charro hat greets worshipers.
Inside the church, the Catholic Stations of the Cross are recreated with photos of Maradona from her childhood to iconic encounters with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Pope Francis.
The church in Puebla, in central Mexico, which opened on July 7, celebrates the “religion” created in Argentina in 1998 by admirers of the late footballer Maradona.
The Maradonian religion has spread to several countries around the world and has more than half a million followers.
“My mom and dad, who are Catholics, say it’s crazy,” said Andrea Hernández, a 22-year-old footballer, during a visit to the Maradonian church adorned with posters of Maradona, who played for clubs in Spain and Italy.
“But for us, those of us who love football, it’s great that Maradona can have such recognition in Mexico.”
Maradona, who died in November 2020 shortly after celebrating his 60th birthday, rose to footballing glory after winning the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, which crowned him one of the best players of all time.
Marcelo Buchet, who opened the church, said it was a place “where you can talk about football”.
“It’s not like going to another church, sitting down and listening,” Buchet said.
“Here you are part of everything. People have accepted this and they are very happy. I saw people cry, people throw themselves at her picture, pray. I feel a lot better not to be the only fool.
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