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How "El Tula" Met The Pope

By Juan Arango



BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - AUGUST 04: Fans of San Lorenzo display a flag in honor of the Pope Francis and the Vatican during the match between San Lorenzo and Olimpo as part of the Torneo Inicial 2013 at Pedro Bidegain Stadium on August 4, 2013 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - AUGUST 04: Fans of San Lorenzo display a flag in honor of the Pope Francis and the Vatican during the match between San Lorenzo and Olimpo as part of the Torneo Inicial 2013 at Pedro Bidegain Stadium on August 4, 2013 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Some might say that nothing is sacred anymore after this story.  Some might laugh a lot and think this was a skit spoofing on what would happen the day there was a South American pope in the Vatican.  It was a chapter ripped out of any spoof movie made about the embarrassing family member.

For many that have dealt with or lived in Argentina, well football is religion. As far as the line between the two- that is still very blurry.  It's as obvious a statement as the earth is round.  Some might argue in a humorous manner that football in that country has a second competitor in the Catholic Church ever since Pope Francis was elected to the entity's highest position.  

The rabid San Lorenzo fan that became God's Ambassador here on earth became a footballing symbol because of his passion for the game as well.  As we all have seen in the past (both distant and recent) how passionate Argentines are and how they have rewritten the book on what fandom can lead many of them to do.  

The latest example, none other than the famous "El Tula".  The Rosario native that follows the Albiceleste all over for their matches arrived in Rome for the midweek friendly against Italy.  According to an interview given by AFA press secretary, Cherquis Biallo, El Tula went to the very front of the Vatican and told the Swiss guard on duty to let him in; he wanted to see the pope.  

Obviously, he was refused entry.  Then the "yellow dog" Peronist supporter decided to take matter to another level.  


He asked to see a prefect and demanded that he see his fellow compatriot.  After a few minutes of speaking with the authorities and mulling over the decision that was eventually made by the pope himself to allow the overexciteable Tula to come in despite not being part of the official envoy of the Argentine national team.  

He was finally allowed to come in to the hall where Pope Francis was hosting the Italian and Argentine national teams.  

Before I continue, I believe I forgot to mention that what makes El Tula so special is that he is one of those guys very similar to... let's say Spain's Manolo El Del Bombo. The only difference is that Carlos Tula was involved intensely in politics with the Peronist party in Argentina and was also involved heavily with his beloved Rosario Central.  

He brings a drum to each and every match and bangs on it- all the time- very hard.  A beat and reverb that is heard by all ears in World Cups, league matches as well as political rallies dating back to the days when Juan Domingo Perón was still in power.  This is where the Pope knew of him.

"El Tula is here?  Well, let him in," said Pope Francis.  

Another thing I forgot to tell you is that he took his trusted drum to the Vatican.  

Many of the Argentine players saw him walking around St. Peter Basilica enjoying the sights, but not a single one expected him to do what he did.   "The Pope is Argentine and he's a symbol of Porteñidad", said various journalists.

I don’t think many people had seen AFA president Julio Grondona red with embarrassment, but there is a first time for everything as this diplomatic meeting began to look like a scene from a possible Hangover 4. 

There were pleas for him to not bang the drum, although in the end the agreement was to at least wait for the appropriate time to “make his presence felt”.  That promise was like dust in the wind.  El Tula began to bang his drum the moment the pope began to bless the players and was in line. 

“Before the Pope began blessing us, El Tula began banging on his drum,” said Cherquis Biallo. “Right then and there we wanted to… it’s not right to commit suicide in this faith, but one did feel like going into a corner and putting a bullet in one’s head. “

In the end El Tula got to meet the pope, but he did not sit in his seat but did kiss him on his cheek, in typical Argentine fashion. No one came out injured, but a lot of red faces and plenty of laughs emerged out of that instance for sure. 

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