Euro 2008: do Catholic countries have the edge?
I was surprised to see this headline on the Austrian Catholic website kath.net 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,” kath.net 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.”
There’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”.
“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 kath.net 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?