For some, football is a religion. For others, religion is a religion.
Church, to some people, is the Bernabeu, Allianz Arena, Stamford Bridge or Griffin Park. And they worship at the feet of the likes of Andres Iniesta, Andrea Pirlo or Robert Snodgrass.
So who better to fill the role to be vacated by Pope Benedict XVI (or as, he will be known from February 28, just Mr. XVI) than someone from the world of football?
Here are five footballers or ex-footballers who could be the next Pope.
With Mancini you would have someone who can appeal to the conservative minded (he is able to utilize defensive tactics) but is also a modernizer (likes to dabble with three at the back).
When you are God’s representative on earth, it can be hard to keep people happy, which is something Mancini is used to, especially at City. Trying to get Carlos Tevez back from Argentina, keeping hold of third-choice striker Edin Dzeko, who wants first team football, and dealing with Mario Balotelli despite Mario Balotelli being Mario Balotelli is a tough job.
Mancini made the Manchester City fans believe again, even when they had lost all faith (granted heavy investment into the Vatican from the Abu Dhabi royal family may be needed to fully replicate this).
The City manager's also a devout catholic and even asked for divine intervention last season, by making a pilgrimage to the holy village of Medjugorje in Bosnia when City were two points behind United in the title race, and (SPOILER ALERT IF YOU MISSED THE ENDING TO THE 2011/12 PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON) they won.
Also, it must be said, he is very handsome. The world would have a lot of time for a handsome Pope.
The papacy is one of the most powerful roles on earth and, it could be argued, the only person with more power is the US President.
So who better to take the role than the power house of the Premier League, Grant Holt?
I know you are already sold on the idea, but here is why else:
As proven by his summer transfer request, following his omission from England's Euro 2012 squad, he wants international recognition, and this job comes with international recognition.
Holt is also the leader of a Norwich City side that is essentially a League One squad, who lost their manager in the summer, but are currently sitting quite safely in the Premier League mid-table. He is more than accustomed to miracles.
Blow white smoke out of the chimney, all hail Pope Grant I.
Most importantly, I have a feeling his stocky body shape will really suit the hat.
While being the only player to ever win the Champions League with three different teams may look good on most footballing CVs, it doesn’t cut much mustard when applying to be the Bishop of Rome.
However, Clarence has other skills that would make him an ideal candidate for the role.
Firstly, he is well-traveled, born in Suriname, represented the Netherlands at international level and has also played in three predominantly catholic countries: Spain, Italy and Brazil.
His phone’s contact list is also up to the job, including the likes of Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and David Rockefeller.
He is also a champion of the Nelson Mandela foundation. Charity work will serve you very well in your application, Clarence
Popes usually have to keep going in the job despite old age, and Seedorf is no stranger to this—he is still playing football for Botafogo as he approaches his 37th birthday.
Finally, Seedorf is just a thoroughly nice bloke. No one has a bad word to say about him. It would do the church wonders to have someone who is just an all-round good egg in the chair of St. Peter.
However, despite my best efforts, there doesn’t seem to be any proof that Seedorf is a catholic, which could seriously hinder his chances in becoming Pope.
Let’s start off with the most tenuous reason: Super Mario has played for both Inter and AC, the teams who compete in the Derby della Madonnina–named in honor of the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the Duomo in Milan.
Virgin Mary. Catholicism. Pope. The job is yours, Mario.
But wait, there is more.
In an age of secularism, the church needs more interest, and who isn't interested in Balotelli? If the Pope-mobile was covered in camouflage paint, the world would sit up and take notice.
And, if the story is true, that he gave a homeless person £1,000 following a big casino win, it shows he is charitable and generous (he might need to knock the big casino wins on the head, however).
Think about the stories from his time in Manchester: apparently building a go kart track in his mansion's grounds, setting his home on fire with an indoor fireworks display and being sent to the shops by his mother to get items like an iron and a mop but coming back with a trampoline, scooters and none of the items asked for.
Now imagine what he’ll do with the entire Vatican City at his disposal.
Even if Mario doesn’t get the role of Holy Father, if Roberto Mancini does, he can probably expect a high-ranking role in the Vatican.
Keane is a proven leader; he captained Manchester United through some of their most successful years, managed Sunderland from second-bottom in the Championship and took them to the Premier League. And, well, let’s not talk about Ipswich.
Some cite the 1999 Champions League semifinal vs. Juventus as his finest ever moment in football. So he is not a stranger to doing a good job in Italy, always handy when you are the Pope.
There would be no churches in a state of disrepair, as Keane's a fan of top-notch facilities, if the Republic Of Ireland’s trip to the 2002 World Cup is anything to go by. Keane left the World Cup squad complaining that the facilities for Ireland on the island of Saipan were not up to standard, claiming the pitch was “like a car park”.
This led to a fall out with Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, and according to Keane: The Autobiography, he told McCarthy:
Mick, you're a liar... you're a ******* ******. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a ******* ****** and you can stick your World Cup up your ****. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your ********.
Which brings us to the point that, back in the day, Catholicism was about scaring people into living good lives free of sin. With Roy Keane at the helm, telling you what and what not to do, it would be scarier than learning to drive in New Delhi.
And finally, he can provide a strong, aggressive challenge to any tough issues. Especially if the tough issue accused him of feigning injury three and half years earlier.