By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
ROME — For the first time, the Pontifical North American College took home the champion’s title in the Clericus Cup soccer series.
To the cheers of superheroes and other fans in the stands, the NAC Martyrs beat last year’s champions, the Pontifical Gregorian University, 3-0, in the final playoff May 12.
“We pretty much controlled the entire game. There was no risk of conceding a goal and as long as the offense did their job,” the final win was in the bag, third-year seminarian John Gibson of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee told Catholic News Service.
Gibson scored two goals in the first half and Scottie Gratton of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., netted the final goal. Playing for the Martyrs, Lewi Barakat of the Archdiocese of Sydney provided all three assists in the game.
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney sat with the U.S. players to lend his support to the sole Australian on the predominately North American team.
“Australia has played an important part of the team,” Gibson said, “They’re a great presence in the house and on the team.”
Australia doesn’t have its own seminary in Rome, so a dozen or so Australians live at the North American College each year.
The NAC Martyrs finished second in the Clericus Cup in 2009 and 2010, and third in 2008. The soccer championship exclusively for priests and seminarians in Rome was established in 2007.
The weekend win “has been a long time coming. The team worked really hard and we’re really overjoyed,” Gibson said.
Known for their lively fan base, the Martyrs had a costumed pirate, Captain America, Spiderman, Wolverine, a Native American chief, a fluffy yellow chicken and a Ninja Turtle cheering the team on.
A number of American students studying at U.S. universities with campuses in Rome also attended the final game “to support us and show their love for America,” Gibson said.
Msgr. James F. Checchio, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, is chancellor of North American College.