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As the 2014 World Cup nears, faith in soccer remains strong

Published: Tuesday, June 3 2014 11:40 a.m. MDT

In this Oct. 30, 2007 file photo, people wave flags at the top of Corcovado mountain, in front of the statue, Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro, after Brazil was officially chosen by FIFA as the host country for the 2014 World Cup. As the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears, soccer's connection to religion makes headlines throughout the world.

Andre Penner, File, Associated Press

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The 2014 FIFA World Cup is about 10 days away. And soccer’s religious connections have been the trending topic in recent weeks.

This past weekend, Pope Francis spoke in a packed Rome soccer stadium of 50,000 Catholics, calling for people to recognize the tremendous troubles facing the family, The Associated Press reported.

“Francis told the faithful that the devil wants to destroy the family, which he described as the ‘domestic church,’ ” the AP reported.

As people in the crowd cheered, Francis said they were reacting and celebrating as if they were Samba dancing, which is a highly popular form of dance in Brazil, who hosts the 2014 World Cup.

BBC recently highlighted the religious situation in Brazil, where many outsiders perceive soccer to be a sort of religion for people. However, Brazil's religious landscape is more diverse than casual observers realize, BBC reported.

“Everyone knows that football is a religion in Brazil, but religion itself finds its expression in the game, and the players' behaviors on and off the pitch reveal much about the country's changing religious landscape,” Rosie Dawson wrote for BBC.

And the players’ religious beliefs often find their way to the field, too, Dawson wrote.

“You will still see players making Catholic gestures such as the sign of the cross, but recent years have seen more evangelical expressions of Christianity,” Dawson wrote. “After their victory in the 2002 World Cup final, the whole team knelt in a huge prayer circle, with some players stripping off their shirts to show t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘I belong to Jesus.’ ”

Brazil hasn’t been quiet about showing its appreciation for the world’s game, as photos from Komo News highlighted.

And Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, was recently in the news for promoting modesty, Deseret News National reported. Qatar’s been pushing for visitors and tourists to come to the country and dress in a modest clothing as a way for tourists to avoid offending the natives.

“A grass-roots campaign set to launch next month implores ex-pats and tourists to recognize local values by covering up from their shoulders down to their knees,” Christina Boyle wrote for NBC News.

But what about stateside? Is soccer making its way from a religious standpoint? NBC Sports recently investigated whether Americans can claim soccer as their religion and get time off of work. The answer is actually kind of complicated. A beer company is trying to make soccer a religion, but people aren’t falling for it, NBC reported.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com

Twitter: @herbscribner

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