Iglesia Maradoniana: The religion dedicated to Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona has an entire religion dedicated to him
Diego Maradona has an entire religion dedicated to him / El Grafico/Getty Images

Normally if you admire a footballer, you get their name printed on the back of your shirt.

The occasional really dedicated supporter might push the boat out and even get a tattoo in homage to their favourite player.

Maradona is one of the greatest to ever play the game
Maradona is one of the greatest to ever play the game / STAFF/Getty Images

But for one footballer, a surname on the back of a replica top or permanently inking oneself up was not a big enough tribute, not a grand enough gesture.

Diego Maradona was afforded a bigger vessel for the love and adoration of a selection of supporters felt towards the diminutive Argentinian magician.

The Iglesia Maradoniana - the Church of Maradona - is a religion founded by three fans of the forward - Hector Campomar, Alejandro Veron and Hernan Amez - in 1998 in the city of Rosario in Maradona's native Argentina.

Maradona's birthday (30 October) is the churches' Christmas day equivalent. June 22 is the day Maradona scored two goals against England at the 1986 World Cup - the second of which is widely regarded as the greatest goal in football history - and this is the churches' easter.

The three friends thought the church would be for 30 to 40 likeminded others who shared their love for the former Napoli man.

It now has an estimated 120,000-200,000 registered members from over 130 countries.

"Our religion is football and, like all religions, it must have a god," Alejandro Veron, member of the church, told the Guardian in 2008. "We will never forget the miracles he showed on the pitch and the spirit he awoke in us, the fanatics."

"The reality of the church, in contrast to what the majority think, is that it isn't a building; the church is the people, those loyal to Maradona," founder Amez told ESPN in 2018. "When we talked about football, the different, the out of this world, it was always Maradona."

Iglesia Maradoniana is not a physical church building; it is a travelling collection of affinity towards Maradona. The church journeys across Argentina, with a selection of pictures, statues and ornaments used to worship the World Cup winner. Members complete their baptism by recreating Maradona's Hand of God goal from the 1986 World Cup.

The church comes complete with its very own 10 commandments:

  1. The ball is never soiled.
  2. Love football above all else.
  3. Declare unconditional love for Diego and the beauty of football.
  4. Defend the Argentina shirt.
  5. Spread the news of Diego's miracles throughout the universe.
  6. Honour the temples where he played and his sacred shirts.
  7. Don't proclaim Diego as a member of any single team.
  8. Preach and spread the principles of the Church of Maradona.
  9. Make Diego your middle name and name your first son Diego.
  10. Don't live estranged from reality and don't be useless.
Diego Maradona inspired Argentina to 1986 World Cup glory
Diego Maradona inspired Argentina to 1986 World Cup glory / El Grafico/Getty Images

Do they have a Lord's Prayer equivalent too? You bet they do.

"Our Diego
Who art on earth
Hallowed be thy left foot
Thy magic come, 
Thy goals be remembered"

Only the poise, skill and infectious joy of watching Maradona play football could not only trigger a generation's love affair with the beautiful game, but an entire religion.