Euro 2008: do Catholic countries have the edge?

June 13, 2008

The Euro 2008 flag flutters near Zurich’s Grossmünster church, 25 May 2008/Arnd Wiegmann“Do Catholic countries have better football players?”

I was surprised to see this headline on the Austrian Catholic website today… and even more surprised to see they seemed to mean it seriously.

“A look at the participants in the final round of the European football championship in Switzerland and Austria suggests this,” writes in a report from Vienna. “In seven of the 16 participating countries, Catholics are clearly in the majority: Poland (95 percent of the population), Spain (92 percent), Italy (90 percent), Portugal (90 percent), Croatia (77 percent), Austria (69 percent ) and France (51 percent). Only one Protestant stronghold confronts them, Sweden. Of the 8.8 million inhabitants of the northern European country, 80 percent are Lutherans.”

Poland’s team with coach Leo Beenhakker (C) attends Mass in Bad Waltersdorf, 6 June 2008/stringerThere’s no hint of analysis of why this should be relevant, or mention of the personal faith — or lack thereof — of the players on these national teams. This purely statistical view (sports fans love stats, don’t they?) goes on to point out which participating countries have large numbers of both Catholics and Protestants (Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands).

The article notes that only 32 percent of all Czechs call themselves Christians, making the Czech Republic the most “de-churched” participating country, i.e. the country where religion has retreated the most. Even there, though, the Catholics make up the largest group among the believers (26.5 percent of the population). So maybe they still have a chance after all.

No religion story in Europe is complete without a mention of Islam, so the Vienna-datelined article ended up with a comment about Turkey. The Turkish team, by the way, beat Austria’s co-hosts Switzerland 2-1 on Wednesday in Basel and face the “de-churched” Czechs on Sunday in Geneva, aka “the Protestant Rome”.

Turkish fans celebrate victory in Basel, 11 June 2008/Vasily Fedosenko“The only Muslim-dominated country in the European Championship is Turkey, where 98 percent of the 72 million inhabitants are Muslims. The 120,000 Christians there have a hard time because of much discrimination,” it wrote. “In Europe there are 224.5 million Catholics, 57.8 million Protestants, 39 million Orthodox, 15.7 million Muslims and 1.6 million Jews.”

These statistics appear to be completely irrelevant to Euro 2008. In fact, with the large Catholic majority in Europe that mentions at the end, it’s almost inevitable that many countries with a Catholic majority will end up in the final rounds every time the championships are held. Can any football fan tell me if there’s something this religion editor is missing?


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[…] Source: Tom Heneghan […]

Posted by Soccer Camps » Blog Archive » Euro 2008: do Catholic countries have the edge? | Report as abusive

This is utter nonesense. How can you claim Catholicism improves the national side’s football?

Given the actions of the players, in terms of going against Jesus’ teachings themselves; “if” anything, it ought to prove secularism improves football results.

Posted by Ibrahim | Report as abusive

No Mr religion editor, you’re not missing out on anything. It’s probably just the website trying to get more attention tabloid style.

Next someone’s gonna say Scientology produces richer media industry people etc…

Let’s move on from this nonsense and discuss real and serious football like whether Croatia can go all the way or when will Spain choke or whether this is Holland’s year.

Posted by Five Times | Report as abusive

You are right, can we have an analisys about Asian football Cup and see if the catholic still have the hedge?

Posted by stefano | Report as abusive

Yes, this is just another cheap way to gain few more internet audience. I was searching for posts on technorati, and this came on top. Why?

Posted by Raphael | Report as abusive

mmmmm… what about argentina and brazil?

FIFA ranked, 1 and 2.

oh oh. i guess Saudi Arabia will never win the World CUp

Posted by dj | Report as abusive

as DJ said, Brazil and Argentina are pretty much 100% Catholic and rabid at that; far more than the average European Catholic. So in that sense this ‘study’ would be shown to be right, but something tells me it’s specious reasoning at best.
Germany wouldn’t enjoy the HUGE amount of success they’ve had if being ‘more Catholic’ was a straight linear measure of quality of national side.

Posted by papa bear | Report as abusive

This article is completely stupid. Soccer has nothing to do with faith. You could also analyze race, place of birth, single parent or extended family descendants and write an article.
Over all, the omission of Orthodox is even more fun: the European champion, Greece, is Orthodox. There are more orthodox in Europe than the article is citing: 58 millions.
Greece, Romania and Russia are competing teams from Orthodox countries. Russians alone are more than 58 millions.
Aside of them, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Montenegro, Belarus are Orthodox countries.

Posted by Comercio | Report as abusive

this maths is confusing me mr editor, u said 98% of turkish 72million population are muslims. how can 98% of 72million be 15.7million????????? remember there are muslims in other european countries. these statictics are not correct Comercio!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Muhammed | Report as abusive

Muhammed, read that sentence again please. It starts off “In Europe there are…”

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Er, perhaps it was just for fun? Vague tribal loyalty breakfast-time/beginning of work day story to create fuzzy warm feeling in breasts of Papist football fans?

Lighten up, folks :-)

(from a papist, lest you think I am being derogatory!)

Posted by berenike | Report as abusive

The figures are wrong. The latest sensus shows that 62% of French people self-identify as Roman Catholics, not 51% (this is secular state propaganda – sorry – communication). Moreover, I doubt 92% of Spaniards are Catholics… Anyway, linking religion to performance on the pitch is an original approach but I doubt it is very relevant.

Posted by Iggy | Report as abusive

The premise is so illogical it’s painful.
There is plenty of diversity in a lot of the Euro teams. I would not think that all the French, Dutch or Swiss players were automatic Catholics. According to world statistics, the russians have about 15-20% Orthodox and 10 to 15% muslims and the swiss are 40% catholic and 35%protestant and we sure don’t know the religion of the individual players is.

Posted by Sarah Cassidy | Report as abusive

no edge for the catholic,anyone can forget if you are real royal roman catholic… can stop it,,until the last day,,,,,philippines is largely catholic..even the smallest
province have strong influence..
mark it your heart

Posted by philippinescath, | Report as abusive

let unite catholic to not accept the allegation of protestant..we soppurt you catholic irish republican army
to fight in liberation in northern ireland..

Posted by philippinescath,ramirez | Report as abusive