Argentina has Pope Francis, and these athletes

Posted: March 15, 2013

THE ELECTION of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was the biggest victory in Argentina since Diego Maradona helped bring home the World Cup in 1986.

Probably the most famous play, oddly enough, was the "Hand of God" goal in which Maradona was not penalized for an obvious handball that ended up a goal against England in the quarterfinals.

While Maradona is the most famous Argentinian athlete, there are others.

* Angel Cabrera is a two-time golf major champion, including his victory in a three-way playoff over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry.

* Lionel Messi is the country's greatest soccer player since Maradona. He's only 25 so his best days may still be ahead of him.

* Gabriel Batistuta is like the Dan Marino of Argentine soccer players. He has some gaudy stats (56 goals in 78 matches), but never won a World Cup.

* Manu Ginobili has been confounding NBA opponents for 11 years and has helped the Spurs win three titles.

* Juan Manuel Fangio won five Formula One titles in the 1950s, a record that stood until Michael Schumacher won seven from 1994-2004.

* Locally, the top Argentinian exports to hit our town have to be Pepe Sanchez and Juan Fernandez, a couple of cerebral point guards who starred at Temple.

* Gabriela Sabatini beat Steffi Graf to win the 1990 U.S. Open. Sabatini played in an era dominated by Graf and Monica Seles, but still was good enough to be inducted into the tennis Hall of Fame in 2006.

* Juan Martin Del Potro won the 2009 U.S. Open by beating Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and Roger Federer in the championship. Heady stuff.

* Pascual Perez (not the former pitcher) is a legend who won the gold medal as a flyweight at the 1948 Olympics.

"We have Messi and [now] we have the pope," said Gabriela Pisquariello, an owner of the Buenos Aires Bakery & Cafe in Miami.

Hey, Gabriela, don't forget about Pepe and Juan.

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