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  Saturday, 2 November, 2002, 09:10 GMT
Praise be to Maradona
England football fans may find it hard to stomach but some Argentine fans are so in awe of Diego Maradona they worship him as a god.

In the 1986 World Cup, Maradona famously punched the ball into the net as Argentina beat England in the quarter-finals.

And just to rub salt into the wound a group of fans have founded the "first Maradonian Church" - also known as the Hand of God church - to worship their idol.

The church was established in the Argentine town of Rosario by Hernán Amez, Hector Campomar and Alejandro Verón.

Football's God

And the 100-strong congregation celebrates Christmas every year on Maradona's birthday - 30 October.

The three disciples told the Diario Ole newspaper that they have been following the tradition since 1999.

"We believe he is football's god. So, for us, this is the 42AD," they said, explaining that 'AD' stands for After Diego.

The followers call themselves Diegorian Brothers and their bible is Maradona's autobiography I Am Diego.

On his birthday this year, they celebrated by reading their own version of the Ten Commandments.

One of them states: "You will be only a fan of Maradona - not any football club in particular."

In the ceremony, they also unveiled a Maradona Christmas tree, which was decorated with pictures of the footballer.

And you can guarantee there are always plenty of hand-outs.

See also:

28 Jun 02 | Other News
16 Jun 02 | Argentina
06 Jun 02 | Argentina v England
23 May 02 | Sports Talk
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