Never before have the home countries of two living popes played each other in a World Cup Final. Of course, never before have two popes been alive for a World Cup Final. This obviously means something. In the tradition of end times prognosticators making wild predictions based on barely intelligible evidence let’s assume we can use this serendipitous moment to divine the future.
By looking at the styles of the two popes throughout their careers as priests, bishops, cardinals and pope, we can extrapolate how they would play on the field and, ultimately, who will win the World Cup. This assumes, of course, that a nation’s soccer team takes on the character of its leading religious figure, but I think we can call that a given. Trust me, I’m a Master of Divinity and watch a lot of soccer.
GERMANY (POPE BENEDICT XVI)
Let’s start with Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict’s career was spent primarily in the ivory towers of academia. His election as cardinal, in 1977, followed a long and noted career as a professor. Pope Benedict’s writings and decisions have been based more in ideology, and, though widely viewed as a conservative and defender of tradition, Benedict started his career as a reformer. In response to riots and anti-authoritarian views of many reformers in Europe, Benedict seems to have turned from a pursuer of gradual reform to a defender of doctrine and institution. Translated onto the soccer field, Benedict’s style would result in a team with a strict style of play from which they will rarely deviate, but also a team with the power to defend against threats with impunity. As the one time leader of the modern Catholic Inquisition his team will be all about playing offense by pushing hard on defense. Precise set pieces, counter-attacks, and really tall guys playing in central defense are the modus operandi of a Pope Benedict XVI infused German team.
ARGENTINA (POPE FRANCIS)
Pope Francis’ career was primarily spent doing pastoral work and handling the stresses and every day problems of the real world. As a priest during Argentina’s “Dirty War” Francis often had to make hard decisions without much time to think. His beliefs, more often than not, were either found through accepted doctrine or formed in the crucible of the crisis of the moment. This has made Francis simultaneously traditionalist, though without Benedict’s deep need to defend tradition, and inventive. This has also helped foster an interest in the importance of the little things and Francis has been celebrated for his concern for the least of these. A team based on Pope Francis would likely be very process oriented, but would also play with a lot of flair and originality. They would look to have their own take on the beautiful game, full of flair and life. On the other hand, while their defense might appear wobbly at times, they would respond will in the crisis moments of the other team’s attack.
It can, and certainly has been, argued that Francis’ views and actions as Pope are a real-life example of Jesus. Many will hold him up against Benedict XVI and point out that Francis’ concern for the least of these, and distaste for the things of wealth and power, prove that he is doing a better job of leading Church toward Jesus. Jesus certainly did not seem interested in things like power, money, or how opulent the temple looked. He was more interested in the poor, the children, the outcast, and the sick. However, the question of the World Cup is not one of eschatology, or soteriology, or Christology. When it comes down to fundamentals, Jesus was not very good at winning. In fact, Jesus seemed to think that losing was winning, which is not the traditional attitude of a winner. And while that may be great for our faith, it’s not very good on the scoreboard. There is only one conclusion: Germany’s crushing of Brazil was only a portent of the wrath with which they will dismantle Argentina. May God have mercy on their souls.
Unless, of course, the German team resigns before the game’s over.
Ben Moore is a person. He is also Ben Howard's doppelganger. You can follow him on Twitter @untamedpastor.