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Fé e futebol. Muscular Catholicism between Italy and Portugal in the European context (1922-1958)

Fé e futebol. Catolicismo muscular entre Itália e Portugal no contexto europeu (1922-1958)
Fé e futebol. Catholicisme musculaire entre l’Italie et le Portugal dans le contexte européen (1922-1958)
Daniele Serapiglia
p. 66-94


Cet article affirme qu’après 1945, le Portugal n’a pas été à l’abri de l’expérience du catholicisme musculaire, expérience à travers laquelle l’Église a tenté de renforcer sa communauté imaginaire. Une communauté imaginée qui aurait dû impliquer tout le continent en commençant par l’Italie, une communauté imaginée dans laquelle le “sport catholique” avait comme objectif de remplacer le “sport fasciste”. C’est à cette époque que l’Église a surmonté sa méfiance à l’égard du football, sport qui devenait un des symboles de son “internationalisme banal” et un des moyens par lesquels Pie XII cherchait à construire l’Église totalitaire imaginée par Pie XI.

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1In 1955, the Spanish film Miracle of Marcelino was presented at the Cannes Film Festival. The film, which celebrated the cult of death from a Catholic perspective, told the story of an orphan living in a convent. Here, he came into contact with Christ, who would soon call him to himself. Shot in 1954, a year after the Concordat between Franco’s Spain and the Vatican, the movie depicted Spanish national Catholicism (Botti 1992) and the role of the Church in the education of the young citizens, illustrating the importance of parish recreation centres in Catholic society. This film was shown throughout Catholic countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy and promoted with a strong publicity campaign which included, among other things, a series of sticker albums printed in various languages. Miracle of Marcelino was a part of the cultural diplomacy of Francoist Spain, which became an ally of Christian Democrat Italy at the end of 1948.

2During the Cold War, cultural policy aimed to create an anti-communist youth population that supported pro-Catholic governments. As for the Vatican of Pius XII, it was not very important if governments were dictatorial, as in the Spanish and Portuguese cases, or whether they were democratic as in Italy. What was important was that they had close ties with the Church and educated youth according to its principles. It appeared that the Vatican aimed to be a link between nations, where each nation could have its own political regime but with rules conforming to the principles of the Church. In practice, this was the same principle as that set out in 1885 in the encyclical Immortale Dei by Leone XIII. According to this, what was important was not the model of regime that governed a State, but that the regime respected the prerogatives and rules of the Church. Cinema and sports, and in particular football, were seen as being capable of playing a role in achieving such an aim and became functional to the creation of new European Catholic citizens.

3This article, then, is about how football caught the attention of the Catholic Church, because of its popularity among the male population of Europe. The latter became a pillar of a renewed idea of Muscular Catholicism, which had originated in the late nineteenth century. Here, the Church progressively saw a means through which to proselytize young people. Portugal was not immune from this experience, where the Church tried to use football to strengthen its own imagined community (Anderson 1983) in an anti-communist perspective. This was an imagined community that the Church hoped would involve the whole continent starting from Italy, where the “Catholic sport” was trying to take the place of the “fascist” sport. In fact, it was in this period that the Church overcame its distrust of football, making it one of the symbols of its “banal internationalism”, and one of the means by which Pius XII tried to make the idea of a totalitarian Church, as suggested by Pius XI, a reality.

1 For a European Catholic Sport: the Italian Paradigm

4Mass sport had been theorised in Latin Europe in the Catholic sphere long before the advent of fascism. At the end of the 19th century, the Church had also seen sport as a means of approaching modernity, according to the growing interest in the mass media advocated by Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum (Pivato 2005: 71). However, sport was not immediately accepted by the entire Catholic world. Parts of the clergy had a distrust of the modern world, of which sport seemed to be an expression and, for some years, parish priests were even forbidden to use bicycles. When the Church did embrace sport, it was due to the fear that “Protestant” values would take root among young people, given that modern sports were born in Victorian England (Pivato 2011: 6). At the end of the 19th century, this vision was questioned by the modernist movement, which became the banner of bicycle use (Dieguez 2013: 129-132). For the leader of the movement, Romolo Murri, sport could serve a function in religious formation as “a means of approaching civil society” (Pivato 1990: 210). Consequently, it was thought to be suitable for forming a new breed of Catholic militants (Fabrizio 2009: 59).

  • 1 Muscular Christianity united the social activism of the Anglican Church with the ideal of “vigorous (...)

5Therefore, also in the Catholic sphere, the idea of the “construction” of the new man was theorized before fascism. If the myth of Muscular Christianity had taken root in England from the second half of the 19th century,1 the concept of Muscular Catholicism appeared to have affirmed itself within the Catholic sphere. A few years before the promulgation of Rerum Novarum, Muscular Catholicism had been at the heart of protecting Gaelic Football in Ireland as a symbol of Irish masculinity. This contrasted with British masculinity, which expressed itself in football (McDevitt 2002), and this same concept saw the founding of Celtic Football Club in Glasgow by Irish Catholic immigrants in Scotland (Bradley 2006: 35). But what differentiated Muscular Christianity from Muscular Catholicism? On that question there are no rigorous studies. Apparently between the two conceptions there were no methodological differences. What was different was above all the religious realm: a different Church. In this sense we can hazard the guess that the early forms of Muscular Catholicism imposed themselves to offset the Anglican proselytism, which was also being affirmed through the idea of Muscular Christianity.

  • 2 Luigi Gedda was the president of the Italian Youth of Catholic Action from 1934 to 1946. He was ver (...)

6In Italy in 1906 the Federation of Italian Catholic Sports Associations (Fasci) was founded (Fabrizio 2009) and, before this, similar associations were founded in Belgium and France (Holt 1981: 196-201). In this context, the role of festive “Oratories” was strengthened. These structures had been given new life by Don Giovanni Bosco and his collaborators in the 1840s, and welcomed young people belonging to all social classes (Fabrizio 2009: 27-28). For the Salesian priest, physical activity was important for the education of children: “not only the good performance of the school but even the religious life of the child” could depend on it (Pivato 1990: 208). It was in the facilities of the Salesians and in recreation centres of large urban areas that the game of football developed in the Catholic sphere. Considered as being too close to the Protestant tradition, football was not seen to respond to the educational aims that the church saw in physical activity, which, initially, was confined to gymnastics. If in Italy in 1902 Father Semeria saw great potential in the development of football for educational purposes, in Catholic circles, even in 1931, there were those who, like Luigi Gedda,2 thought otherwise: that it led to the path of professionalism, thus abandoning its educational vocation. In a book introduced by Father Agostino Gemelli, Gedda addressed the issue of Tifo (football passion of fans): “The ideal of the fan is to use the hermetic and esoteric language of the initiated sportsman, to discuss champions and records, to attend the Sunday match. It is pagan. So, if this mania for records is the initial cause, Tifo is the determining cause of the detestable professionalism of the sport” (Gedda 1931: 79). In reality, Gedda’s work was published during a conflict between the Vatican and fascist Italy overt the prerogatives of the Catholic Church. This conflict led to Catholic Action banning its members from doing sport.

7In those years, football’s popularity was also due to the success of the Azzurri during the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928. On that occasion, Italy came third and gained the attention of the media and consequently the attention of the fascist regime. The latter was always attentive to the idea of controlling the passions of the masses and consequently tried to make football one of the components of its “banal nationalism” (Billig 1995). For this reason, football was identified with the regime as early as 1928, becoming its symbol in 1934 following the success of the Italian World Cup organized in Italy (Papa, Panico 2002). This would seem to justify Gedda’s line of thought. In effect, in describing the “sickness” of football supporters, he seemed implicitly to criticize all those mass manifestations of a civil religion like Fascism. It is no coincidence, then, that Gedda created the myth of the Catholic athlete incarnated by cyclist Gino Bartali (Ponzio 2011: 37-40). Gedda chose Bartali because the cyclist had joined Catholic Action. After his victory in the 1936 Giro d’Italia, the Catholic press described Bartali as the prototype of the Catholic Homo Novus (Pivato 1996: 131-132), while fascist prototypes were better incarnated by boxers and footballers.

8The double totalitarianism expressed by the fascist states and by the Catholic Church was reflected also in the field of sport. They seemed to be two “indifferent” totalitarianisms (De Giorgi 2013: 57), which managed to live together for years and which clashed on individual issues such as the education of young people or the realization of the corporate state (Gagliardi 2010, Pasetti 2016). The Cardinal of Milan, Ildefonso Shuster spoke of two totalitarianisms: the first “subjective”, the State, the second “objective”, the Church (De Giorgi 2013: 54). The latter had been theorized by Pius XI, who had stressed that the only totalitarian subject could be the Catholic Church. In September 1938, Pius XI in addressing the French Federation of the Christian Unions, stated: “If there is a totalitarian regime – totalitarian de facto and by law – it is the regime of the Church, because man belongs totally to the Church”. Such an affirmation was tantamount to a warning against the “state adulation” of Nazi German and Italy. (Menozzi, Moro 2004: 7). In this sense, the Church affirmed its totalitarian vocation, which would be expressed in the control of every aspect of the citizens’ social life, starting from the control of education. Already in 1929, right after the Concordat with the Italian State, in the encyclical Divini illius magistri, Pius XI had affirmed that the teaching of the public school had to conform with the ecclesiastic directives (Pius XI 1929). Obviously, that could not have been well accepted by the fascist State, which strove for the total control of the education of the Italians. Indeed, on this matter the greatest tension between State and Church was concentrated in the nineteen thirties (Fattorini 2007, Gentile 2010, Ceci 2013). If with the Concordat the teaching of Catholic religion was introduced in the schools, the Church was forbidden to organize other extra-spiritual activities amongst which the sporting ones, which had to be the monopoly of the PNF.

9If we accept 1945 as the concluding date of the fascist experience, we can see how only the totalitarian idea of the Church remained standing and aimed to contain the Communist danger in Europe. Pius XII was active in this sense. Pope Pacelli often referred to the “spiritual cohesion of Europe. This educated woman, ennobled and civilized by the Cross, had achieved such a degree of civil progress that she had become the teacher of other peoples and other continents” (Di Martino 2014: 86).

10To achieve this goal, it was essential to invest in the education of young people, for whom sport activities served a purpose: Muscular Catholicism had to be revitalized. From 1942, the Pontiff had begun to emphasize the importance of sport in the educational context (Invernizzi 2012: 59).

11In Italy, the church tried to occupy the void left by fascism in the physical education of young people through the creation of the Centro Sportivo Italiano (CSI – 1945), born of an initiative of Gedda, as the sports arm of Catholic Action. In this sense, Gedda had asked for permission to use sports facilities created during Fascism for the development of the activities of Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (GIL), of the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND) and of the Comitato Olimpico Italiano itself (CONI) (Fabrizio 1977: 134-136). This was opposed by the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and also the Christian Democracy Party. However, the CSI was able to use the facilities of the Church, such as those of the Salesian institutes, where young people could practice sports surrounded by Catholic symbols. From the beginning, football was the most popular sport within the CSI because it was that best stimulated the passion of young people. In addition, its popularity also grew as a result of competition with the sports organization close to the Communist Party: the Unione Italiana Sport Popolare (UISP) (Archambault 2012). Also, for this reason “the Church made football a privileged instrument of its pastoral action” (Archambault 2016: 42). It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church tried to exploit football both through its banal symbolism, and through major events, as did the fascist regime.

12The event that most connected sport and the Catholic world was the tragedy of Superga (Archambault 2017; Dietschy 2004). On 4 May 1949, all the players of the top Italian team of the time, Il Grande Torino, died in an air crash. They soon became martyrs with whom most Italians identified. Very interesting are the images of the newsreel Settimana Incom dedicated to the sad event and the team’s funeral. In the film, Giulio Andreotti is seen attending the funeral as a representative of the Italian government. The latter was Undersecretary to the Council Presidency, with responsibilities for the purge, cinema and sport. His attendance demonstrated the importance that the Italian Government gave the event, through which it sought to unite the national community.

  • 3 Settimana Incom, May 11, 1949.

Who does speak of death as a dark passage? The eleven are in front of the gold door. Blue is back in the clouds. Light blue on cypresses. When they were doing badly, they clenched their teeth and fought back. Now, boys of the youth team, it’s down to you, grit your teeth too, and you will give us back the Grande Torino.3

  • 4 During Mussolini’s reign, in public ceremonies the “rito di appello” involved reading out the names (...)

13For the dead players there would be paradise, while their young successors would recreate on earth a “Grande Torino”, clenching their teeth like the Italians engaged in post-war reconstruction. In fact, the tragedy of Superga seemed to be representative of Italy in the immediate post-war period and for this reason it managed to connect with almost the entire nation. The images of the wreck of the plane at the base of Turin’s basilica evoked the war images broadcast by the newsreels between 1940 and 1945. In addition, the Torino players had died in the fulfilment of their duty, as did many soldiers. Therefore, they were heroes and as heroes were celebrated at their funeral, which seemed to indirectly refer to the cult of the fallen in fascist culture. It was from fascism that the “rito d’appello”,4 or roll call, appeared to have been borrowed by Guido Notari who used it in his Settimana Incom broadcast.

14The funeral held in Turin was attended by 500,000 people and managed to unite a large part of the population in a public rite, during which not only did the deaths of the Grande Torino appear to be celebrated, but also those who had died in the Second World War. The departure of the latter had not been celebrated following the war years and the civil war that had devastated the country between 1943 and 1945.

15In this sense, a football team with no political connotation could unite winners and losers, right and left, giving a public dimension to a pain that would otherwise have remained confined to the private sphere. As Norbert Elias and Philippe Ariès assert, the 20th century is the century of forbidden death, of death imprisoned in the private sphere (Elias 2005; Ariès 1998).

16Public funerals such as those of the Grande Torino gave Italians the opportunity to openly vent intimate emotions linked to personal experience, helping to build the new national post-war community.

17After all, as Barbara Rosenwein points out, “a community tends to share the same system of emotions, giving rise to its own self-representation” (2002: 821823). In this case, a sports event took on specific religious connotations. It became functional to the construction of a new ideal Italian community, which was meant to replace that built during Fascism. However, this community was part of a European context in which Italians were to be the “sentinels” of Europe, together with the Portuguese and the Spanish.

2 Muscular Catholicism and Football in Portugal

  • 5 P. Lanfranchi in a private conversation with the author, March 21, 2018.
  • 6 “Milhares de Pessoas incorporasse no funeral das vitimas”, A Bola, May 9, 1949.
  • 7 “Pio XII rezou pelas vitimas ao ter conhecimento do desastre”, Novidades, May 6, 1949.
  • 8 At the time, Umberto II was exiled in Cascais.
  • 9 “Na Igreja do Loreto”, Novidades, May 7, 1949.
  • 10 There are already some works on Italian-Portuguese relations in the post-war period (De Matos 2010) (...)

18As Pierre Lanfranchi suggests, paradoxically the Superga tragedy demonstrated that the space formed around football had become smaller through commercial air travel.5 In South America and in Europe, the death of the players of the Grande Torino provoked general commotion. Some clubs like San Lorenzo recalled their death by wearing the granata (maroon) shirt in the matches in the wake of the airplane accident (Pavesi 2017: 165-166). The tragedy was also commemorated in Portugal, where Torino played its last match (Coelho, Pinheiro 2002: 356). On the day of the team’s funeral in Turin, Benfica organized a participatory manifestation.6 For the purposes of this study, it is interesting to refer to the attitude of the Portuguese Church towards this event. The news of the tragedy of Superga was highlighted in the newspaper of the Portuguese episcopate, Novidades. This reported the tragedy and the funeral on the front page, underlining the religious aspects, such as the pope’s prayer after hearing the news.7 It is interesting to note that a mass was celebrated in the church of Loreto by suffrage of the fallen. Part of the Italian community in Portugal participated at the mass, including the former King of Italy, Umberto II.8 To represent the Portuguese State, some members of the Government participated, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Caeiro da Mata.9 Evidently, in Portugal, the Superga tragedy was seen as part of the context of Italian-Portuguese cultural diplomacy.10 From a symbolic point of view, this event explains how the union between football and the Catholic religion was being strengthened also in Portugal in those years. In fact, previously, the Lusitanian Church also had a certain diffidence towards this sport, because it was considered unsuited to an educational context. However, unlike Italy, such thinking was accepted by the Estado Novo (Domingos 2014: 99-102), which was more sensitive than Italian fascism towards the Catholic values of sport, as we will see. However, even in Portugal, the Church could not fail to pay attention to the evolution of football, because of the passions that it generated among the male population: also thanks to the intense rivalry among the great Portuguese clubs and intense media coverage (Domingos, Kumar 2011). How did this come about? To answer this question, it is necessary to analyse the evolution of the relationship between the Catholic Church and sport between 1922 and 1958. In the next paragraphs this paper will focus on the construction of Portuguese muscular Catholicism and how football came into this context at the end of the 1940s.

2.1 Portuguese Muscholar Catholicism

  • 11 Jubileu da Associação Cristã da Mocidade Portuguesa 1894-1994, Porto, Tipografia Sequeira. Lda, 194 (...)
  • 12 It is important to underline that in all likelihood there are some examples of the development of p (...)
  • 13 “6° Congresso da J.C.P.”, A Época, May 3, 1922, “O congresso da J.C.P.”, A Época, May 4, 1922.
  • 14 Nacionalismo, Boletim da ACM, July 1923.
  • 15 Moreira, E., “Campos de Jogos. Tese apresentada ao I Congresso do Escautismo, emLisboa”, Boletim da (...)

19Unlike Italy, Portugal did not develop a Muscular Catholicism in the years immediately following the promulgation of Rerum Novarum. In fact, the Christian Democrat thinking behind sports did not appear to take root in Portugal given the absence, at the beginning of the twentieth century, of organizations like those that were establishing themselves in Belgium, Canada, France and Italy: in 1911, these organizations created the International Catholic Federation of Physical Education (Pivato 2005: 71-75). This was probably due to the lack of development of a more modern industrial society, along the lines of Great Britain’s (Holt 1989; Collins 2013). The union between sport and the Catholic Church appeared to strengthen after the Great War. In that moment, the Portuguese Church definitively understood the efficacy of sport in the context of the reorganization of its own propaganda. Stimulating this new attention towards sport was above all the fear that the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) could take the monopoly of sports education for youth, attracting many of the latter from the Protestant area. Founded in England in 1844 precisely with the intent to improve the living conditions of the working classes in the huge as well as insalubrious urban neighbourhoods that had grown in the most important cities following the industrial revolution, the YMCA had committed itself to the creation and the diffusion of new sporting forms that were at the same time educational and enjoyable (Aledda 2000: 19). From its earliest years the associations took on transnational connotations, to the extent that in 1852 it crossed the Atlantic opening headquarters in Boston and Montreal, from which it spread around the United States and Canada (Schaut 2010: 109). In those two countries it strengthened its structure, penetrating Latin America in the late nineteenth century and several European countries amongst which Italy and Portugal, where it developed starting from 1894, first with the name of União Cristã da Mocidade and from 1896 with the name Associação Cristã da Mocidade (ACM).11 The YMCA showed its organisation capacity during the Great War, as it was called upon to coordinate the recreational spaces of the American troops first of all and then later of the whole Allied contingent. The peak of the YMCA’s success was right after the war, when it organised and funded the inter-allied games that were held in Joinville, which saw the participation of 1415 athletes representing the allied powers, amongst which Italy and Portugal (Nunes 2016). That experience appeared to reinforce the YMCA in the rest of Europe, increasing the Protestants’ propaganda capacity. This created great concern among the Catholics, above all in the countries where the Church was in conflict with the State, such as Italy and above all Portugal, where Protestant proselytism could make inroads in the context of the armed forces and more generally among the youngsters through the sports activities, like basketball and volleyball (Battente, Manzani 2009: 12; Carvalheira 2011: 140; Serapiglia 2018: 21-37). If, however, Italy there were already organisations like the Fasci addressed to contrasting the YMCA, in Portugal there were no organically structured Catholic sports organisations.12 For this reason, in the aftermath of the Great War, sport entered the agenda of the Catholic youth organizations. This as possible also by exploiting the process of reorganisation of the Catholic forces that in 1915 had seen the creation of the Centro Católico Português. Fundamental was the contribution of the Centro Académico da Democracia Cristã (CADC). On 2 and 3 May 1922, the CADC hosted in Coimbra the Sixth Congress of Portuguese Catholic Youth, which sanctioned with a unanimous vote the use of sport to strengthen the Catholic presence in Portugal.13 The conflict that emerged with the ACM was immediate. Through the columns of Estudos, the new periodical of the CADC, in May 1923 the Catholics accused the Protestant organisations of educating youth to individualism, weakening the national sentiment: also under accusation was the use that the Protestants made of motor activities for their proselytism. Furthermore, they exalted the catholic religion as the only national religion, capable of uniting the collectivity for the good of Portugal (Pinto 1923: 35-38). Curiously, the month after in the Portuguese ACM journal, a short article was published entitled Nacionalismo. In this text the anonymous author recalled that the ACM was fundamental for Portugal and for its internal cohesion: this had been “demonstrated by the aid given by the ACM to the Lusitanian troops in France”.14 In actual fact the theme of nationalism was being used as a pretext by the Catholics to affirm their own supremacy in youth education. As a matter of fact, also at the basis of the physical education of the ACM there were the same principles as those of the Catholics, addressed to “modelling the morale and the bodies of the new generations to reinforce the Portugal of tomorrow”: at the basis of the young Protestants’ education coexisted several references to North European physical education, amongst which the method of Peter Henrik Ling15 (Moreira 1924). At the beginning of the century Ling had devised a physical education method based on a series of daily gymnastics exercises addressed to the improvement of the practitioners’ health conditions.

20The Ling method constituted the basis of Catholic physical education as well. It seems interesting to observe how in their magazines, the Catholics sought to demonstrate how physical education had always been a Catholic peculiarity, with a view to constructing a historical record also in the context of the physical education of the masses. In the spring of 1923 in the columns of Estudos, António de Azevedo Meyreles de Souto published an article in two parts entitled Como Devemos Viver, which was subtitled with the phrase of Juvenal “Mens Sanae in corpore sano”. De Souto told of the evolution of physical education starting from Greece (1923a). Then he underlined the importance of physical education for Saint Francis of Sales (1923b: 199). Also, the author performed an overview of the development of physical education in Europe. Lastly, he argued that physical education, together with an upright moral conduct, was a deterrent against the scourges of modern society like alcoholism (Ibidem: 214).

  • 16 “Cultura física”, Estudos, February 1923: 319.

21Physical education could also contribute to building Catholic Portuguese of tomorrow (Cerejeira 1926). However, a school reform was necessary, which should envisage the introduction of physical education among the curricular subjects (Pinto 1925: 540-542). But what the models of physical education that the Catholic Church was looking to? Gymnastics dominated, even if some space was also given to some sporting disciplines. In Coimbra, for example, the courses of Weiss de Oliveira were held regularly, inspired by the Ling method (1927: 21-47), but particular attention was given to Ping-Pong. As compared with team sports and in particular football we can observe an attitude that changed in the course of the nineteen twenties. Indeed, in February 1923, Estudos reported the creation of a football team tied to the CADC, which had to play in matches against the teams of the other student associations.16 However, in the subsequent issues of Estudos we do not find references to this team, actually from 1925 football was stigmatised as being dangerous for youngsters’ physical and mental health (Pinto 1925: 540-542).

2.2 Estado Novo, Youth and Sport

  • 17 From the end of the nineteenth century in Europe a debate was unleashed on the efficacy of gymnasti (...)
  • 18 Boletim da ACM, February 1931.

22With the advent of the dictatorial regime (1926) this thinking was sanctioned by the 1932 legislation, by means of which the Board for Physical Education Services was set up inside the Ministry for Public Education. That legislation considered sports of an Anglo-Saxon inspiration to be factors of physical deformation and “moral perversion” (Domingos 2010: 25; Kumar 2017: 99). This does not come as a surprise seeing that Gustavo Cordeiro Ramos was at the helm of the ministry, he being a fervent Germanophile (Torgal 2008: 509-512): in all likelihood this also had an impact on the predilection for gymnastics in respect to the English sports for youth education.17 The figure of Gustavo Cordeiro Ramos appears significant, as in the same period he unified the national scouting structure and launched the idea of creating a Mocidade Portuguesa (MP) that should be national-Christian (Medina 1998: 151). It does not seem to be accidental that Cordeiro Ramos speaks of a national-Christian organisation and not of national-Catholic. Indeed, he tried to create a single national scouting structure, which had to be capable of involving all the Portuguese, including those who gravitated around the sphere of the ACM, which in 1930 had 1,015 partners.18 For Cordeiro Ramos this organisation had to sanction the leadership of the State in youth education, as had taken place in Italy through the Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) and as would happen in Hitlerian Germany after 1933 through the Hitler-Jugend (HJ).

23The Mocidade Portuguesa was created in the 1936 within the scope of the education reform, wanted by the new Education Minister António Faria de Carneiro Pacheco. The MP was supposed to involve all of Portuguese youth (Kumar 2017: 107). In the years of the Spanish Civil War, the MP was structured around a strong militaristic vision. Under the leadership of Francisco José Nobre Guedes (1936-1940), the MP firmly identified itself with the values of the Opera Nazionale Balilla and especially of the Hitler-Jugend (Nunes 1995: 194). Lopes Arriaga states that, in 1936, Count Carrobio, leader of the Lisbon beam, and Claussen, leader of the Nazi Party in Portugal, were often present at early demonstrations organized by the MP (Arriaga 1976: 45). This closeness to the ONB and HJ seemed to corroborate the idea that also the Mocidade Portuguesa should propose the “motor habitus expressed by the Fascist utopia” (Domingos 2010: 26). Indeed, the MP fit perfectly in the context of the 1936 education reform, which had some ultranationalist features (Ibidem: 24). As underlined by Simon Kuin, during the Guedes leadership, the MP had a number of problems with the Catholic Church. The latter, through Cardinal Cerejeira committed itself to seeing that the State made of the MP a Catholic organisation (1993: 584). It is important to underline that this did not mean casting doubt over the nationalist principles of the MP, but rather offsetting a possible totalitarian drift in a statist sense as had occurred in Italy and Germany. Cerejeira seemed to win his own battle at the same time as the stipulation of the Concordat between Church and State in 1940.

24Formally the Concordat did not touch the regime of separation between Church and State. However, it consecrated the unity of these two entities on the political and religious level. From the practical point of view all the concessions made to the Church starting from 1929 were reiterated, when the works for the drafting of this document had started: the Church had reacquired juridical status and various privileges, amongst which fiscal exemptions, political protection, a role in censorial activity, and the prohibition to divorce had been reintroduced. Then, the State would continue to help the Church in its civilizing function of the indigenous populations in the colonies. As had been sanctioned in the 1930 Colonial Act. In actual fact, the Catholic religion became the religion of the “Portuguese nation.” By means of this union a common front between State and Church would be constituted that would only be broken in 1958, after the death of Pius XII (Rosas 2012: 261-280). As has been underlined by Rosas, through the Concordat the Church actively adhered to the regime, putting itself forward as “arm of ‘moral regeneration’ and ‘re-Christianisation’ of the societies contaminated by the ills of the century” (Ibidem: 266). To achieve this function, the Catholic leadership in youth education became fundamental.

25The Concordat seemed to sanction that Catholic leadership when the “moderate and Anglophile” Marcelo Caetano was put at the helm of the MP (Kuin: 574). Caetano replaced the militarist education imposed by Guedes with a new civic education aimed more at the exaltation of morality. Sport, and especially team sports, could be useful to educate young people to respect the hierarchy. From this point of view, Caetano was inspired by the Scout movement.

26Scouts were born in the Protestant context in the aftermath of the AngloBoer war with the aim of making boys good citizens (Gentile 2008: 121). However, at first the curiosity in scouting was not determined by the use of sports, but rather by the development of camping theories, which between the two wars found supporters, not only among the followers of different religious families, but also among the supporters of different political movements. The ACM was one of the first organisations to spread the values of camping, tied to the gymnastic exercises in the open air and the collective classification of youth (Moreira 1924). But the same values were subsequently returned to by the organisations closer to the regime and to the Catholic Church, and their opponents. As underlined by José Neves, again in 1939, the Communists looked to the militarist roots of Baden-Powell’s scouting for the development of their own idea in regard to camping (Neves 2009: 10). Those who underwent the allure of scouting in Portugal had been the anarchists themselves, who only deplored its militarist dimension (Matos 2012: 30). Previously in 1923, the Lusitanian Catholics, along the lines of the Italian example, had created the Corpo Nacional de Escutas (CNE) (Vicente 2004: 229-230; Lemos 1926: 62-66). About a decade afterwards the CNE had ended up along with the Associação dos Escuteiros Portugueses (AEP) in the Organização Escotistica de Portugal (OEP), thanks to the decree no. 21434 issued in July 1932, wanted by Cordeiro Ramos (Vicente 2004: 232). The OEP had a fundamental role for the Catholic Church. Indeed, the Catholics were bound to it in the years when the MP seemed to be turning its gaze to Germany. Indeed, among the ranks of the Catholic scouts Marcelo Caetano had trained to become an officer; in 1940 he became the leader of the MP and led the latter on the road to full Catholicisation (Ibidem: 588).

27As regards physical education this was essential in the project of Caetano, who wanted to “create” the Integral Man (Caetano 1941: 5-10) necessary for the realization of the corporative state. He hoped that this would help to resolve the serious imbalances of the State, towards which he was always particularly sensitive as a Catholic man (Ibidem: 108).

  • 19 Orientações Pedagógicas na Espanha Nova, Brotéria. Revista contemporânea de cultura, April 1944: 44 (...)

28In 1941, Manuel Rocha had written: “Physical Education is for Christian Morals an indispensable part of the Integral Christian Education, whose fruits the Catholic Church (as was observed by Pius XI) ‘would harvest and multiply around the world, always to the advantage of the individuals and the nations’” (Rocha 1941: 131). As was underlined in the Salesian periodical Broteria, to achieve this goal physical education had to be implemented in school and had to be accessible to all.19 In the years of the Concordat, the Estado Novo had constructed all those structures that were needed to spread physical education. In 1940 the Instituto Nacional de Educação Fisica was founded, while in 1942 the Direcção-Geral de Educação Física, Desportos e Saúde Escolar was created, with the aim of managing the development of national physical education (Kumar 96, 102-103). Again in 1942, through the decree law no. 31 908 passed on 9 March, the MP was given the monopoly for the diffusion of physical education during non-school hours (Ibidem: 108).

  • 20 It seems to be fundamental to underline that Catholic physical education in Belgium was one of the (...)
  • 21 Boletim da ACM, February 1931.

29In the years of Caetano’s leadership of the MP, the playing of football, basketball and volleyball spread for educational purposes (Caetano 1977: 111). He wrote: “If well oriented, gymnastics, games and sports educate people to act in an admirable way” (Caetano 1941: 3). The addition of the team games had been supported by two important Catholic educationists: Celestino Marques Pereira and António Leal de Oliveira (Domingos 2010: 24-25). Both came from Catholic universities in Belgium20 and were influenced by the Catholic sporting movements of Italy, France, Belgium and Spain (Ibidem: 28), in the context of which team games addressed to young education were developing with a certain amount of success. Already in May 1934, on the occasion of the 1st Congress of the União Nacional, Leal de Oliveira had put forward the idea of making physical education compulsory in schools, where starting from the age of 16 the pupils would have to take up sports like volleyball, basketball and handball (Kumar 2017: 96). It seems important to note how once again the games proposed by the Catholic Leal were the same ones proposed to its users by the ACM in that period.21 This meant that even in Portugal the Muscular Catholicism and Muscular Christianity were developing in parallel and that the Catholics were looking to the Protestants for the evolution of their educational practices in the sporting sphere.

  • 22 In the 1960s, the regime saw football as a possible means of legitimising the existence of its colo (...)

30However, Caetano would later stress that sports activities in the form of games had to be strictly controlled and be based on the aptitudes of the individual (Caetano 1952). In this sense, Caetano wanted to emphasize the educational function of sports, enhancing the amateur element. Caetano’s thought respected that of the regime. The latter remained suspicious of sports spectacles until the Sixties,22 while sport was privileged in its educational use (Leonard 2012: 243-244). This idea seemed to reflect that of Gedda expressed in 1931 in Italy. For the leaders of the MP the problem was not football in itself. The problems arose from the “collateral effects” of football: an “amoral” professionalism that would distance its practitioners from the educational specificities of sport for the sake of money; but also the possible violence between the fans of the different teams (Guedes 1942: 9). That problem inevitably concerned the dictatorial governments, which wanted to avoid demonstrations of violence, which could have cast doubt over their own capacity for control. This had been clear in Italy, where the regime had on several occasions acted in the attempt to stem clashes between fans (Martin 2006: 87-100). That thinking was shared by the Church, for which the problem of this sport was indeed tied to the “unhealthy” passion of the supporters. However, the Church could not turn a blind eye to a phenomenon that involved a large part of the male population and above all generated such passion among young people.

2.3 The Football of Catholics

  • 23 In actual fact the FISEC was officially founded in Brussels between the 3rd and the 6th January 194 (...)
  • 24 O desporto no pensamento e na palavra de Pio XII, Coimbra, Coimbra editora, 1956: 5.
  • 25 Ibidem: 8-9.
  • 26 Ibidem: 7 and 49.
  • 27 O desporto no pensamento e na palavra de Pio XII, cit.: 37.

31In Portugal, in the mid-1940s, football had largely imposed itself among the urban working class, which had largely decreed its success (Kumar 2017). The possibility of practicing this sport in urban spaces not necessarily designed for sport contributed to achieving this result (Augustin 2001). In this sense, football was perfectly integrated into the space built around the use of free time (Bourdieu 1987: 175-176), in a period of slow but progressive globalization of consumption on which “technological innovation, market expansion, state intervention” was acting (Capuzzo 2006: 9). Like other sports, football has been channelled into the collective imagination, offering a dream space in which to compensate for the disappointments of everyday life, just like fashion for Colin Campbell, (Campbell 1992: 340). As in Italy, the Portuguese sports press contributed to this result. They had begun to follow the sport with greater attention, especially since the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928, where the Portuguese national team reached the quarter-finals, also thanks to António Ferro (Rodrigues 2014). However, it was the creation of the single round Portuguese championship in 1938-1939 (Kumar 2017: 23) that sanctioned the definitive success of football and that justified the media’s attention to the phenomenon. In the 1940s, A Bola (1945), who, in a short time, had become one of the most widely read newspapers in Portugal, became one of these newspapers (Pinheiro 2011: 243-288). For these reasons, the Portuguese Church, even before the State, began to look at the evolution of football and to make it one of the elements of its “banal” symbolism. As Archambault said for Italy, also in Portugal “in the 1940s and 1950s, a theology of football was created, designed to say “don’t worry, you can be a good Catholic and support a Serie A team” (Archambault 2018). As in Italy, in Portugal the attitude of the Pope helped to make this perspective mature; he had been very careful to the diffusion of popular. Obviously, the Pope’s attitude influenced the action of the promoters of physical education in the Catholic area, amongst whom Celestino Marques Pereira. Like other colleagues, Marques Pereira described Pius XII as a true doctrinaire of contemporary sport. Also, he underlined the Pope’s capacity in having united the Western Catholic youth organisations within various international organisations: the Union Générale sportive de l’Enseignement Libre (UGSEL), the Fédération Internationale Catholique d’Education Physique et Sportive (FISEP) and the Fédération Internationale Sportive de l’Enseignement Catholique (FISEC) (Pereira 1956: 97-98). The FISEC was very important, as from 1947 it organised the FISEC – Game,23 which saw the participation of all the member organisations amongst which the Mocidade Portuguesa. Indeed, the MP organised in 1956 the FISEC games in Coimbra.24 The integration of the MP among the members of the European Catholic-sporting organisations was the symptom that the Catholicisation of the MP was by now complete. Indeed, the FISEC was founded to “Harness the Catholic forces of all the countries, ensuring the presence of the Church in the domain of the specialisation of physical education in order to exert a Christian influence in the domain of human activity”.25 One of the models for the evolution of the physical and sporting education of the MP even after the fall of fascism was still Italy. Arousing interest was above all the Centro sportivo italiano (CSI), to the extent that the speeches of Pius XII to the representation of the CSI were translated into Portuguese. Even the Italian Catholic sportsmen represented a model, so the photos of the Pope with Bartali were presented to the Lusitanian public.26 Hence, Italy continued to represent a model and not only for sport. Even the relationship between Pius XII and the Italian media was studied attentively, and it is no accident that Marques Pereira himself would write a short essay entitled Cinema e Televisão no pensamento da Igreja. That study started from the message of Pius XII destined to the Italian producers in 1955. The text then analysed a message of the Pope again in the same year addressed to the international Union of cinematographic centres. In this message the Pope underlined the educational values of cinema (1958). Cinema, television and sport were fundamental means for the education of the young European Catholics and for this reason the church had to try to control them. As regards cinema and television the Church tried to channel the message of films and programmes. As regards sport, the Church tried to religiously connote both the meaning of the practice and the elements of spectacle, making some great champions examples of contemporary Catholicism. Among these cyclists like Bartali, but footballers as well. For example, in Portugal the images of the Pope with the players of the Lusitanian national team visiting the Vatican in 1955 were disseminated.27

32With the spread of the first television broadcasters and the creation of Eurovision, football took on the role of litmus test for Portugal. Marques Pereira speaking of the athletic preparation of the military football team, underlined: “The physical preparation of a football squad, with certain responsibilities on the international level, is of fundamental interest” (1954). The visibility that football was acquiring at international level was make this sport become important in the context of cultural policy at the symbolic level for the representation of the nation.

33The creation of the club competition contributed to making football grow in importance for Portuguese “cultural diplomacy” (Singh 2010), which took place on a yearly basis, the first of which in the post-war period was the Coppa Latina (1949-1957) (Mourlane 2010, 2015; Dietschy 2010: 352-354; Sbetti 2017: 139-144), the first important club competition that saw the participation of the Portuguese teams.

34Through the Coppa Latina it could be football that would channel such values, above all after Benfica’s victory in the competition in the 1950 edition. By the time the Catholic Church arrived at the appointment it had already accepted football among its educational activities, to the extent that football itself had by then been accepted in the MP, in the context of which it was regularly practiced starting from the nineteen fifties (Kumar 2017: 114).

35In 1948, the book Para Além da Bola was published in Portugal. This was the translation of the 1944 book by Father Benoit Joseph Bickel, Religion et sport, essai historique et philosophique, which was dedicated to the role of sport in man’s moral education and to its relationship with religion. Part of the introduction by Avelino Gonçalves was dedicated to football. Here, he made a brief reference to the European tour (1946-1947) of Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, curiously the beloved team of the current Pope, Francis. During this tour, the Argentine team played against the best of Europe, including the Portuguese national team. Gonçalves points out that San Lorenzo players gathered to pray in the centre of the pitch before the game began (1948: 9).

  • 28 No Reino da Bola, “O Oratório”, Outubro de 1947.

36In those years football was spreading among Catholic sports facilities, such as those built in the shadow of the Salesian Fathers. It was precisely in Salesian newspapers that football was cleared for the faithful through the reports on oratory teams. For example, from 1947 onwards, the Portuguese newspaper of Oratori festivi, O Oratorio, often published a section entitled “No Reino da Bola”.28 Several youth football teams had ties with the Salesians, such as the Juventude of the Estoril Salesians. The Salesians could count on various facilities, which already at the end of the 1940s were present in major Portuguese cities such as Lisbon, Porto, Braga and Evora. We can find several references to football in the newspaper of the Catholic Workers’ Youth (JOC), JOC (afterwards: Juventude Operária). From 1945, this newspaper began to talk about sport, also affirming the importance of sport compared to the mere participation as spectators.

  • 29 Gonçalves, M. 1945, “Desporto … para que”, Joc, March 1945: 4. The evolution of the sports apparatu (...)
  • 30 I.R., “Viva o desporto Educador …”, Joc, March 1946.

37In this sense, sport continued to be exalted as a means of “moral education and education in the will”. In order to achieve this goal, it was necessary to create the conditions for a real mass sport.29 Initially, also JOC said that the youth should be educated through sports other than football. In 1946, Fernando Nuñao wrote: “The youth of today, in general, knows only the king of sports, football. We all know that football is a violent sport, and when we play it, all our muscles move. This sport should be practised only under medical supervision” (Nuñao 1946). A few weeks later, the same column exalted those outdoor activities that brought boys closer to nature, “therefore closer to God”.30 Among these activities, the newspaper supported camping, swimming, mountain climbing, gymnastics, and volleyball – the only team sport included.

  • 31 ROBERT, “Isto do Futebol …”, Juventude Operária, February 1947.
  • 32 Didacus, “Para Além da Bola”, Juventude Operária, July 1957.

38In September 1947, a journalist under the pseudonym ROBERT, using a match between Portugal and Spain as a pretext, complained that the “sick” fans loved football more than Christ.31 The newspapers of the Catholic workingclass youth began to favour football soon afterwards. They gradually began to give column inches to match reports involving the national team. In July 1948, then, Juventude Operária was advertised, and commented on, on the front page of Para Além da Bola, which was published by JOC. In the book’s commentary, Catholic sport was exalted according to the idea of Pius XII,32 who indirectly contextualized football in Muscular Catholicism.

  • 33 « Ecos dum congresso Mundial », Ala, July 28, 1947.
  • 34 Gedda’s gaze on Salazarism, opens the road to a question, that is, what are the relations between t (...)

39We can suppose that the renewed attention of Italian Catholics and more generally of the Vatican to football influenced the change in the attitude of Lusitanian Catholics. As we have pointed out, football was becoming one of the most important sports in Italy in the context of the CSI. Curiously, Gedda was present in Lisbon at the same time as football began to be accepted by Portuguese Catholics. In July 1947, the future leader of Italian Catholic Action attended the congress of Catholic doctors, where he spoke about the shroud.33 During that event, the foundations were also laid for one of the most important international associations with Church ties: The Union of Men (Falconi 1958: 111). Gedda had some interest in Portugal. He was fascinated by the cult of Fatima (Gedda 1998: 217-219) and thought of Estado Novo as a paradigm of the Christian State. It is also significant to note that the chapter of a 1958 book dedicated to Gedda was entitled Quasi Salazar: the latter underlined how Gedda looked to Portugal and Spain for the realization of the Christian state (Falconi 1958: 162-182). Gedda was not the only one to think in this way. At the end of the Second World War, for many European Catholics, the political paradigm was Salazarist Portugal (Durand 2002: 183).34


40The Christian State was not to come under the direct leadership of the clergy, but was to be autonomous according to the rules of separation between State and Church. In it, the Church would play its political role through a series of associations that branched out among all social categories. Among such associations was Catholic Action and those connected to it such as Catholic Youth Worker. In this way, the Church held in its hands “instruments of pressure” to influence government decision-making in the States in which it was present. As we said at the beginning, quoting the encyclical Immortale Dei of Leo XIII, the type of government that governed a nation was not important. The important thing was that any kind of regime respected the Church and its heritage and protected the primacy of the Catholic religion in the education of the younger generations. In this way, the Church would be guaranteed its consensus. This would protect it from the danger of being supplanted by other religions or civil religions as fascism and communism were in the postwar period. Therefore, especially during the pontificate of Pius XII, one of the objectives of the Church was to create a European Catholic space that would enjoy the support of the masses.

41Sport, and football in particular, could help to achieve this objective. As we said, by stimulating passion, football could bring many young people closer to the Church, including those not particularly fascinated by traditional liturgical rituals. In this way, the oratories could become a space where, through football, many boys could connect with Catholic symbolism that would become part of their daily lives. If Billig has defined banal nationalism as all those national symbols present in everyday life such as flags on public buildings, for the Church we could speak of a banal internationalism, which, in its daily routines, offered young European Catholics the same symbols with the aim of unifying Catholic Europe.

42In this sense it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify how many young people were involved in this design, as is drawing a map illustrating where football was played in the shadow of bell towers on the continent. If there were well-organized Catholic sports facilities, where members of associations close to the Church carried out regular activities, there were also many oratories where they played in courtyards without a “census” and suitable equipment. This was particularly true in countries such as Portugal, where the creation of the organisational structures was not matched by the creation of a number of spaces capable of hosting a real development of mass state sports. It is also true that at the theoretical level this sport in its Catholic connotation could reach all the young Portuguese males seeing that is was practiced in the context of the MP. However, it was an empirical fact on which we should reflect if in 1956 the MP could potentially count on the membership of 56,027 young Portuguese in its sports activities, amongst which football, participated with only a limited number of people: in 1957 just 10% of those registered (Kumar 2017: 108, 113).

43But is it right to speak of football as a means of creating a Catholic Europe, when this sport is identified with national parochialism or more often with regional parochialism?

44As Hobsbawm points out, if it is true that the national imagined community is real in a context of eleven people, it is also true that the space created by football is transnational (2007: 36-41). In this sense, we can apply to a continental dimension what Alejandro Quiroga suggested for Spanish football during Francoism. For the latter, the construction of a regional dimension around football led to the construction of a national dimension (Quiroga 2014: 24-25). In the same way, we can say that the national dimension of football has led to its European dimension. The European space created around football was strengthened by continental competitions and above all by television (and even before that, by radio) broadcasts (Gasparini 2016: 243). In this sense, football has acquired the role of identity that was also noticed by Tony Judt, who saw in this sport one of the peculiarities of post-war Europe (Judt 2010: 782-784). However, it is necessary to underline the fact that the Church’s internationalism was addressed to the exaltation of nationalism. The Church constituted what, to paraphrase Daniel Rogers. We could define as the “world between.” Indeed, for Rogers “that world is not without nations […] on the contrary the nations are among the main players” (Rogers 2004: 102). That attitude was also shared by the great adversary of the Catholic Church, that is Communism. For example, the Portuguese Communists thought that “the regional” did not undermine the international and so they saw nothing bad in “nationalizing” the local football language (Neves 2011: 252).

45But did the church really manipulate football to create its imagined community?

46By playing on emotions, football has always created “a contradictory space” (Elias, Dunnig: 1994), which modern dictatorships such as fascist regimes, and later the church, tried to control. But as Freud wrote, control is an illusion and often the controlled element escapes from the hands of those who want to dominate it. It is no coincidence that through football the manifestations of opposition to the various regimes were often also expressed. Moreover, paradoxically, football managed to create a European space that in the post-war period crossed the same iron curtain, so much so that it also united East and West (Vonnard, Quin, Bancel 2016; Vonnard 2018).

47In the countries of Western Europe with a Catholic majority, and especially in those of the South, the privileged relationship between football and the Church led to the limitation of its spread among women (the same applies to other disciplines). For example, in Italy there was a real development of women’s sports only towards the end of the ’70s when investment was again made in public sports structures, which allowed the creation of spaces as alternatives to those of the Church (Serapiglia 2018: 146). In Portugal, this was still evident: at least until 1974 the development of sport, and specifically women’s football, was prevented by the country’s Catholic background, according to which, women could only do light physical exercise (Brasão 2017). Of the sports suitable for the girls, there was obviously no football, which, according to an old theory could create problems for future maternity (Brasão 2011: 199): this seemed to be the only purpose for women in the countries that we have taken into account in this study.

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1 Muscular Christianity united the social activism of the Anglican Church with the ideal of “vigorous masculinity”. In this sense, the British church gave meaning to Juvenal’s expression “Mens sana in corpore sano”, giving a central role to physical activity in the moral formation of the Christian man (MacAloon 2006).

2 Luigi Gedda was the president of the Italian Youth of Catholic Action from 1934 to 1946. He was very close to Pius XII in the post-war period and was considered his political wing.

3 Settimana Incom, May 11, 1949.

4 During Mussolini’s reign, in public ceremonies the “rito di appello” involved reading out the names of fallen Fascist heroes. The public answered “present” after hearing each name of the deceased.

5 P. Lanfranchi in a private conversation with the author, March 21, 2018.

6 “Milhares de Pessoas incorporasse no funeral das vitimas”, A Bola, May 9, 1949.

7 “Pio XII rezou pelas vitimas ao ter conhecimento do desastre”, Novidades, May 6, 1949.

8 At the time, Umberto II was exiled in Cascais.

9 “Na Igreja do Loreto”, Novidades, May 7, 1949.

10 There are already some works on Italian-Portuguese relations in the post-war period (De Matos 2010). However, there is a need for studies specifically devoted to cultural diplomacy between the two countries.

11 Jubileu da Associação Cristã da Mocidade Portuguesa 1894-1994, Porto, Tipografia Sequeira. Lda, 1944.

12 It is important to underline that in all likelihood there are some examples of the development of physical and sports education in the Catholic structures even before the war; at least in those structures that utilised the pedagogy of the École des Roches, which was directly inspired by the English “active pedagogy.” This is the case, for instance, of the college from Via Sacra de Viseu, where António Oliveira Salazar was trained (Torgal 2008: 24).

13 “6° Congresso da J.C.P.”, A Época, May 3, 1922, “O congresso da J.C.P.”, A Época, May 4, 1922.

14 Nacionalismo, Boletim da ACM, July 1923.

15 Moreira, E., “Campos de Jogos. Tese apresentada ao I Congresso do Escautismo, emLisboa”, Boletim da ACM, December 1924: 3.

16 “Cultura física”, Estudos, February 1923: 319.

17 From the end of the nineteenth century in Europe a debate was unleashed on the efficacy of gymnastics, with respect to the English sports for the athletic preparation of the young students and the military. At first the north European model of gymnastics seemed to prevail, which was used in Germany and was linked to the Prussian victories in the Franco-Prussian war (Valletti 2009).

18 Boletim da ACM, February 1931.

19 Orientações Pedagógicas na Espanha Nova, Brotéria. Revista contemporânea de cultura, April 1944: 446.

20 It seems to be fundamental to underline that Catholic physical education in Belgium was one of the most developed in Europe and was the point of reference for Catholic sport across the continent (Tolleneer 1998: 171-183).

21 Boletim da ACM, February 1931.

22 In the 1960s, the regime saw football as a possible means of legitimising the existence of its colonial empire. The presence of Eusebio and other players from Mozambique in Benfica, winner of two Champions Cups (1961 and 1962) and in the national team which finished third at the 1966 World Cup seemed to justify the theory of Lusotropicalism (Domingos 2012, Cleveland 2017) or Banal Lusotropicalism (Pereira 2016: 61-62) which formed the basis of the existence of the empire.

23 In actual fact the FISEC was officially founded in Brussels between the 3rd and the 6th January 1948. In 1947 it was only formed of a promoting committee, under the chairmanship of Monsignor De la Serre, rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris. That committee was born following a scholastic triangular tournament between the Catholic associations of England, France and Belgium.

24 O desporto no pensamento e na palavra de Pio XII, Coimbra, Coimbra editora, 1956: 5.

25 Ibidem: 8-9.

26 Ibidem: 7 and 49.

27 O desporto no pensamento e na palavra de Pio XII, cit.: 37.

28 No Reino da Bola, “O Oratório”, Outubro de 1947.

29 Gonçalves, M. 1945, “Desporto … para que”, Joc, March 1945: 4. The evolution of the sports apparatus seemed similar to that of the propagandistic apparatus of the Estado Novo, which in reality was lacking compared to that of its German and Italian counterparts of the time (Adinolfi 2007).

30 I.R., “Viva o desporto Educador …”, Joc, March 1946.

31 ROBERT, “Isto do Futebol …”, Juventude Operária, February 1947.

32 Didacus, “Para Além da Bola”, Juventude Operária, July 1957.

33 « Ecos dum congresso Mundial », Ala, July 28, 1947.

34 Gedda’s gaze on Salazarism, opens the road to a question, that is, what are the relations between the Christian Democracy and the Salazarist regime. On this topic there are no deep studies, which it would be worthwhile planning, above all in the currents of the right-wing Christian Democracy more closely tied to Pius XII and to the Roman curia, of which Gedda was himself an expression.

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Daniele Serapiglia, « Fé e futebol. Muscular Catholicism between Italy and Portugal in the European context (1922-1958) »Lusotopie [En ligne], XVIII(1) | 2019, mis en ligne le 02 janvier 2022, consulté le 23 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Daniele Serapiglia

IHC-FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa

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