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NAC-CLERICUS May-15-2007 (480 words) xxxi

NAC Martyrs' dream of making Clericus Cup final dashed with loss

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- The Pontifical North American College's dream of making the final rounds of Rome's first Clericus Cup soccer tournament were dashed when the college's Martyrs lost early in the playoffs.

The Martyrs went head to head against the top-seeded team in the tournament May 12, and the Neocatechumenal Way's Redemptoris Mater team beat the Martyrs 1-0.

The Redemptoris team -- which was undefeated and has allowed no goals -- has "very skilled players" who had much more experience on the field, but their slightly more aggressive style caught the Martyrs off guard, said Martyrs' trainer Gregory Rannazzisi.

Rannazzisi, a seminarian from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., told Catholic News Service May 14 that the Redemptoris squad scored early in the game when the Martyrs experienced a brief bout of "sloppy defense." But while the Martyrs could not score, the defense managed to keep the damage to a minimum.

With just a few minutes left in the match, the Martyrs' star player and team co-captain Jaime Gil dislocated a shoulder and was taken to the hospital.

Just making it to the playoffs with their surprisingly strong performances throughout the tournament "was really great," Rannazzisi said.

"Americans (men) have never been known to excel in soccer," he said, so their 4-3 record ended up being "far better than anyone expected going into the tournament." The three losses, he said, came because of penalty kicks or tie-breaking shootouts that gave opposing teams prime opportunities to score.

Eight of 16 teams advanced to playoff matches in May. Playoff winners were to meet for the semifinal match May 19, and the championship game was scheduled for May 26.

Rannazzisi said the Clericus Cup was a great experience for all members of the college and not just the players.

"It is a great source of fraternity. It was the thing to do on a Saturday" to flock to the field to cheer on their fellow seminarians, he said.

It also gave all of Rome's seminarians a unique venue to meet each other and strengthen friendships.

"It was really fun to see guys (from other pontifical institutions) outside the classroom" and "solidify some ties," he said.

Rannazzisi said he believed the Clericus Cup was a powerful tool for evangelization because it showed that future priests "are just regular guys" who can leave room for play in a life dedicated to prayer and the church.

He said he hoped the wide media coverage the tournament has been getting would "boost awareness" and attract new vocations.

Seeing seminarians hitting the soccer pitch lets people know seminary life is not all just study and prayer, he said.

"The study and prayer are there, but they influence the way we live," which also includes time for fun, he said.


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