Twenty priestly football teams compete to win the first-ever National Synodal Cup
Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien speaks before a match between Clergy Hanoi and Hai Phong at Phong Phu Stadium on July 19. (Photo: UCA News)
Large numbers of people, including church and government leaders, were drawn to the first football games between priests at a public stadium in northern Vietnam.
On July 19, Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi, Bishop Dominic Hoang Minh Tien of Hung Hoa, priests from four dioceses and officials from Ha Nam province were among the spectators at two matches at Phong Stadium. Ph.
The first match was between Clergy Hanoi and Hai Phong and the second match was between Clergy Bac Ninh and Hung Hoa. All formed Group A, one of four groups with 20 teams competing for the first-ever National Synodal Cup hosted by the Vietnamese bishops.
Before games, the crowd said prayers and sang hymns to pray for the players, while church leaders and provincial officials presented flowers to teams and referees to encourage them to play fairly.
It was the first time that football fans, players and guests solemnly prayed together in a public stadium in the Southeast Asian country.
During the matches, the crowd got into the mood by waving flags and shouting encouragement to the teams, while Catholic bands played drums and trumpets.
“All people walk together on a path to achieve the main goal of glorifying God”
Ta Bien Cuong, a Catholic sports commentator on national television, said, “Today God is with us at the stadium.
Cuong said Pope Francis called on the athletes of the 2022 Mediterranean Games in the Algerian city of Oran to make sport a direct experience of unity and brotherhood.
He said it was wonderful that the local church is organizing a national football championship to turn to a synodal church.
Bishop Thien said that the Vietnam Catholic Bishops‘ Conference launched the synodal cup to partly live out the spirit of synodality in faith, pastoral ministries and charity. All people walk together on a path to achieve the main goal of glorifying God and bringing happiness to people.
The Deputy General Secretary of the Bishops Group said football has spread to all places, races, languages and cultures in the world, uniting all peoples as one to build peace.
“Our special players are priests who will do their best to play fair, show their fondness for the game and the spirit of synodality,” he said.
Clergy Hai Phong team scored a goal against Hanoi thanks to Father John Baptist Bui Van Thai while Bac Ninh team beat Hung Hoa 3-1.
The four teams are set to face off at the stadium on August 3-9. The top two teams will qualify for the quarter-finals.
The tournament, which runs from July to October, aims to improve the mental and physical health of local clergy and foster priestly brotherhood among the country’s 27 dioceses. It will also host the 15th National Congress of Bishops of Vietnam in October and show synodality ahead of the 2023 assembly of the Synod of Bishops.