Pope Francis meets soccer’s world-class stars

Pope Francis met with Barcelona football star Lionel Messi and his teammates on the Argentine national soccer squad and Italy’s national team players at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican early this week.

The teams met Wednesday in Rome in a friendly match.

The pope told the players to remember they are role models on and off the field ‘‘for better or worse.’’ He asked for their prayers for himself ‘‘on the playing field God put me on.’’

Twelve years after Italy and Argentina last played, the two predominantly Roman Catholic and soccer-mad nations are renewing their storied rivalry in a game dedicated to Pope Francis – an Argentine and a big soccer fan.

The last time these teams met was in 2001 – also an exhibition in Rome that Argentina won 2-1. Before that, Diego Maradona’s Argentina eliminated host Italy from the 1990 World Cup on penalty kicks in a semifinal in Naples.

Italian coach Cesare Prandelli came up with the idea of organizing the game.

“It was just a sudden flash, after watching Pope Francis and his first appearances in public,” he recently told sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He generated a tremendous sense of fondness and approval. The thought of ‘his countries’, Italy and Argentina, immediately entered my head. Two squads leaving together, from the same hotel, to have an audience full of joy and happiness with the pope.”



AP/The Washington Post

Gazzetta del Sud

Image: AP/Boston.Com

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,