Is football the universal religion?

Source: BBC News

By Kelly Grovier

The beautiful game? Football ought to be rechristened ‘the holy game’. After all, that is how people who cannot otherwise agree on anything else in this world reverentially regard the sport. The claim by Diego Maradona (who once confused his own hand with God’s) that “football isn’t a game, nor a sport; it’s a religion” is shared, like an article of faith, by Pele, his arch rival for the title of the greatest player of all time. “Football is like a religion to me,” Pele once confessed, “I worship the ball and treat it like a god”.

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Deities of football’s muscular creed, Pele and Maradona are not alone in their undying devotion to the sacred pastime. Every four years, the religious ritual that is the World Cup inspires transcendent performances from players who rise above (sometimes literally) the occasion itself. Given the fervour that overtakes the month-long sacrament, it is hardly surprising that so many images captured during the World Cup should vibrate with religious intensity.

What follows is a handful of the most striking photos of this year’s tournament, alongside the pious masterpieces from art history whose spirit they share.

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