Argentine football club San Lorenzo de Almagro has announced it will name its new stadium after Pope Francis.
The pontiff has supported the Buenos Aires-based team since he was a boy and was a paid-up member, then as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
The Pope’s father played for the club’s basketball team, and took him to watch the football side regularly. He even got the title of ‘World’s Most Famous San Lorenzo Fan’ Viggo Mortensen before becoming the Roman pontiff.
The team, named after a saint and known – among other nicknames – as El Santo, ‘the Saint’, is one of Argentina’s ‘Big Five’ clubs.
They plan to build a new stadium in Boedo, a working-class neighbourhood in the Argentine capital. The new venue will be biult on land seized from the club during the time of military rule from 1976-1983- plot of ground the club faithful donated money to help purchase.
The military sold the land to a supermarket chain, which later sold back after a court action.
The club announced its decision on Twitter following a meeting of its board. The new home ground is expected to be inaugurated in 2016.
The ‘Saints’ played at its home ground in Gasometro (Gasometer) stadium in Boedo until 1979, when debt forced the club to sell the ground to the military.
It moved to the Pedro Bidegain stadium, often referred to as Nuevo Gasometro (New Gasometre), in 1993, but fans have campaigned to return to their historic grounds for years.
San Lorenzo recently won the most prestigious club football competition in South America- the Copa Libertodores- for the first time in the club’s 106-year history. Last December it won the Argentine Primera Division. These and other recent string of sporting success supporters have joked is the result of the Pope’s backing.
Quizzed if his support may have played a part in his favourite team’s triumph, the Pope said at the time of their Copa Libertodores win that: “I am very happy about it, but, no, it is not a miracle.”