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According to the “Hand of God” followers calendar, we are now in the sixty-first year AD, that is, the birth of Diego Maradona, the Argentine football legend who died at the age of sixty last November.
The death of the famous football player touched the hearts of millions, who had feelings of admiration beyond the usual, which raised the level of interest, during the past weeks, in joining the Maradon Church, “consecrated” in his name, in Argentina, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and other countries.
The Maradon Church is not, of course, an actual faith group. It is more like a club of admirers that has a devotional character, whose followers imitate some of the rituals of the Christian religion, expressing their fondness for the late star.
This club includes loyal Maradona fans in their extremism, and through it they practice rituals that simulate masses, prayers, baptism and other methods of devotion.
According to the “Wall Street Journal,” the number of followers of the Maradon Church is close to tens of thousands, while other sources indicate that they may reach 200,000.
Three fans of Maradona founded the club in the city of Rosario in Argentina in the late nineties, and they are still active in the city that is one of their most prominent strongholds, in addition to the Italian city of Naples, where Maradona lived for several years, during his career with Napoli.
The Maradonian Church is not considered an official religion, but its followers believe that Maradona is a saint or a semi-gods, and that he possessed during his life supernatural abilities that make him worthy of “worship” and reverence.
For the followers of this church, Christmas falls on Maradona’s birthday on October 30 of each year, while they celebrate Easter on June 22, the date on which he scored his famous goal by hand in the English goal during the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2005 1986.
Among the church symbols are the number 10 that Maradona wore, the Argentina national team jersey, and of course, a ball printed on it the number 10 as well. Likewise, members of the Church call those who helped Maradona throughout his career “the Apostles”, while expressing hostility to anyone who persecuted him or stood in the way of his success.
Maradona’s death renewed interest in his “religious” fan club, but talk of elevating him to the status of sacredness and revering him almost religiously, has always accompanied the analyzes related to the Argentinian player’s biography and the football fans’ relationship with him.
For many, Maradona was a genius footballer, but he was also a leader and a catalyst, especially with his achievement of important sporting achievements, despite his poor upbringing, drug abuse, and despite his unusual life, which makes his career inspiring for football fans.
The Maradon Church is particularly active on the Internet, and its followers sometimes meet in places designated for them, to perform prayers and rituals that simulate Christian rituals, as we mentioned, but with reverence for Maradona.
According to press reports, the church gathers the poor and the rich who admire the late sports star, and the taxi drivers gather with university professors, doctors …
The conditions for enrollment are simple: taking the name Diego as a second name, naming the first male child in the family after Diego, and going through a special ritual of baptism before joining the church officially.
Baptism in the Maradon Church requires serious associates to perform a representation of Maradona’s famous goal in the 1986 World Cup.
Maradona scored the goal with his own hand, and when asked about it in a press conference, he did not confirm the matter, but rather answered that “the hand of the Lord scored the goal.”
The answer turned into an iconic phrase, and it was the beginning of the attributes of holiness among his fans, from which the founders of the church took their name.
In the rite of baptism, a person has three attempts to score with his hand, just as Maradona scored it. If he fails to do so, he is not allowed in, and he has to try again after a year.
The new subscriber recites the affiliation oath to Maradona’s biography “I am Diego,” which church members call their gospel.
Likewise, the Maradon Church has ten commandments, the first of which is “The ball cannot be tarnished” and “I love football more than anything.” Other commandments include: “Give your son the name Diego,” and “Spread the words of Diego Maradona throughout the world.”
Church followers quote Christian prayers, and perform the prayer “Diego, who is in the stadiums, to sanctify your left hand, to bring us your charm, so that your goals be as in heaven as well as on earth.”
From afar, the “Hand of God” Church might seem overly loving Maradona, even to his most loyal admirers. But he is not the only celebrity who is “revered” by his admirers to the point of reverence after her death. There are similar personalities throughout history, including the American rock star Elvis Presley.
In many cultures, people tend to “deify” heroes, or characters with extraordinary achievement, as an expression of love.
While psychology defines “celebrity worship syndrome” as “a manic disorder when a person becomes deeply involved and interested in the life of a celebrity,” according to Psychology Today.