Pope Francis the Soccer Fan

PHOTO: San Lorenzo de Almagro, a club named for a saint, posted on twitter a photo of Pope Francis years ago holding up a club flag, March 13, 2013.
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Pope Francis has made fans around the world after his first few days as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church but in his native Argentina one of the country's biggest soccer clubs has capitalized on the fact that he is a big fan of them.

San Lorenzo de Almagro, a club named for a saint, wasted no time in letting the world know that the new pontiff was not just a casual fan, but a paying member of their fan club.

"It's an honor for this club to know that the first South American pope is a member of San Lorenzo," the club said on Twitter.

The club then posted on the social website not only a photo of Pope Francis years ago holding up a club flag but even his official membership card.

In a publicity blitz perhaps understandable for a club used to being overshadowed by the two most famous Argentine teams -- Boca Juniors and River Plate -- San Lorenzo went on to send a letter to their most famous fan. The club known as "The Saints" congratulated the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on his historical appointment as pontiff and emphasized that for them, he was not just another pope or the first Argentine or Latin American or Jesuit pope, but rather "The Pope of San Lorenzo."

As San Lorenzo -- the only one of the country's so-called "Big Five" teams to never win the coveted Copa Libertadores title in South America -- basked in the glow of their new celebrity aficionado, supporters of rival clubs could not resist the chance to poke fun at their opposing futbol fans.

"I'd like to congratulate him because this is the first international title that the Saints of San Lorenzo have, thanks to the pope," said Manuel Rojas, a fan of Huracan. "Because if it weren't for the pope, they would have never known about [San Lorenzo fans]."

Of course none of that could dampen the enthusiasm of San Lorenzo. They touted that in 2011 then cardinal Bergoglio celebrated a mass at the team chapel, posing with a jersey and players afterwards. They even updated their traditional red-and-blue striped uniform for Saturday's game against Colon de Santa Fe. The players took the field with a photo of Pope Francis emblazoned in the center of their jerseys.

With the support of His Holiness, it should come as no surprise then that they won the game. Faith, after all, can be a powerful force.

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