There is no question that football is a sort of religion in Argentina. After all, Diego Maradona’s infamous and controversial goal against England in the 1986 World Cup is known as the “Hand of God.”
Now, on the ceiling of one club in the capital, in a painting modelled after Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, Maradona is God, extending his hand to Adam – Lionel Messi.
Even Pope Francis, an avowed football fan of course, would likely smile at the grand gesture made by the club Sportivo Pereyra, located in Barracas, where football and other team sports are played.
“For us, this pitch is our temple – a sacred temple of football, and what better than to have a fresco on the ceiling that is worthy of a temple,” coach Ricardo Elsegood said. “The Sistine Chapel has God and Adam, and the chapel of football has Messi and Maradona.”
In this version of the Italian artist’s Creation of Adam, instead of the angels surrounding God, other football stars are featured: Juan Román Riquelme, Gabriel Batistuta, Mario Kempes, Sergio Agüero, Claudio Caniggia, Ricardo Bochini and Ariel Ortega.
“It’s as if Maradona had bestowed upon Messi the gift of continued good football,” explains the artist who painted the work, Santiago Barbeito. For Elsegood, it was a simple decision. “We realised the ceiling was rather dark. We thought at first of painting it blue with white clouds. But one day, the artist came and said it would be better to do it with Messi and Maradona,” he said.