Church, soccer intertwined in Slovenian life

  • June 24, 2010
Slovenian fansTORONTO - It started off so well for the Slovenians gathered in the parking lot of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the southwest corner of Toronto — painting faces, waving flags, blasting vuvuzelas and drinking Slovenian beer at 9:30 a.m. on June 18.

The Green Dragons of Slovenia at the World Cup in South Africa — and at the parish hall in Etobicoke — were ready to take on the Americans.

The first goal was fire in their veins for the Toronto Slovenian fans. But in the end the tiny Toronto offshoot of a proud and fanatical soccer nation had to settle for a 2-2 draw.

A similar scene played out June 23, but the Slovenians had their hearts broken as the nation was eliminated after a 1-0 defeat at England’s hands.

Why bring their other religion to the parish? “That’s pretty much where the Slovenian community congregates,” said student Mike Hajdinjak, who felt he didn’t really need to be in school when Slovenia is playing in the World Cup.

“I figured I would skip some school. Tomorrow’s another day,” he said.

Richard Vuksinic drove all the way from London, Ont., to watch the game with his fellow Slovenes at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It’s hard to separate the Church from any aspect of Slovenian life, said Vuksinic. “We grew up with the Church,” said the Canadian-born Vuksinic, who has been back to Slovenia to pick up Slovenian citizenship and to Halifax to cheer on Slovenia in the World Hockey Championships.

Fr. Antonio Burja of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal plays with Toronto Slovenia in the Toronto Services Soccer League. Watching soccer together in the parish hall is a great way to draw the community together, said Burja.

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