| A Vatican priest
Rome, Dec. 19: A senior Roman Catholic cardinal has announced that the Vatican wants to put together a football team of priests capable of competing in Serie A, Italy’s top league.
The team would play in the colours of the papal flag — yellow and white.
“The Vatican could, in future, field a team that plays at the top level, with Roma, Inter Milan, Genoa and Sampdoria,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, the equivalent of its Prime Minister.
He said: “We can recruit lads from the seminaries. I remember that in the World Cup of 1990 there were 42 players among the teams who made it to the finals who came from Salesian training centres all over the world.
“If we just take the Brazilian students from our Pontifical universities we could have a magnificent squad.”
Giovanni Trapattoni, the former Italian national team manager, who is in charge of Salzburg FC, has been mooted as a possible coach. In 2002, Trapattoni took bottles of holy water with him to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea to refresh the Italian team. But they were knocked out in the early stages.
Football is close to the hearts of some of the most senior Vatican figures.
Bertone is a fervent Juventus fan and has in the past been a football commentator for a northern Italian television station. Pope John Paul II was a goalkeeper in his youth, while the current Pope received Pele during the last World Cup and paid a visit to the German training camp.
The cardinal said football could play an exemplary role in the lives of youths and football stadiums were an ideal spot for church recruitment.
“Stadiums are modern temples, frequented by thousands of youths,” he said.
The Vatican has a little known football team already — made up mostly of Swiss Guards — which plays against a small number of other states who have not been recognised by Fifa. Its only international fixture, against Monaco in 2002, ended in a 0-0 draw.