It’s no secret that Pope Francis is a huge football fan.
At his initiative, the representative of the World Rom Organization and the “Pope’s Team- Fratelli tutti” will play a friendly football match on November 21 on the training grounds of Italy’s Lazio football club. The match is also a fundraising in support of “A kick against exclusion,” to encourage the inclusion of the most vulnerable people in the society.
Football has a cultural and ethical value, not just a social one, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture told reporters at Tuesday’s press conference to present the sporting event. (Read: 3 Reasons Why The Pope is Pinoy As The Rest of Us)
The Pope’s Football Team
He explained that Pope Francis has entrusted the initiative to the Pontifical Council and Athletica Vaticana, the Vatican’s sporting association. Pope Francis will receive the two teams in an audience on Saturday, November 20, during which he will be gifted the No. 1 Fratelli Tutti team jersey.
The “Pope’s Team – Fratelli Tutti” is composed of Swiss Guards, Vatican employees, children of Vatican employees, priests who serve in the Secretariat of State, the Roman Curia and the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. To testify to the concrete commitment to inclusion and the very meaning of the match, three young migrants, welcomed by the Community of Sant’Egidio, and a young man with Down’s syndrome who participates in the Special Olympics events, will play for the Pope’s Team.
But aside from the Pope’s team, the Vatican, the smallest sovereign state, actually has its own football team! Want to know more about Vatican’s football team? Read on!
Vatican football began half a century ago.
Vatican football began on January 7, 1521. The first ever match of Calcio Florentino, an early form of football, was played in the Vatican in the presence of Pope Leo X. However, the first Vatican league was created only in 1973. It was first won by employees of L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See.
It is not a FIFA member.
While the Vatican football team represents the state in international matches, it is one of the seven national football teams that are not FIFA members, others are Monaco, Palau, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and Federated States of Micronesia.
Its players are Vatican employees and Swiss Guards.
Because the Vatican has a small population, the team is composed entirely of employees of the Vatican: police officers, postal workers, government officials, and members of the Pontifical Swiss Guards–Vatican’s de facto army in charge of protecting the Pope. However, because the population is mostly members of the Swiss Guard, training and games could be difficult to arrange. (Read: Six Facts You Need To Know About Pope Francis’ Swiss Guards)
In 2010, Vatican City was invited to participate in the Viva World Cup by the N.F.-Board but was unable to play because they could not assemble a 15-man roster. Because of difficult schedules and lack of training, the Vatican Football team has not won a single match to date.
Pope Francis is serious about improving the state of sports in the Vatican.
Though popes have always preached about the importance of sports and supported the team, sporting took a more professional stance in the Vatican under Pope Francis. According to the Holy Pontiff, it’s important that the Vatican has its own sports team because sport is a central dimension in people’s daily lives, so much so that it can be seen as a “sacramental of beauty.” (Read: Pope Francis Quotes On The Importance And Impact Of Sports)
In 2019, he established the Athletica Vaticana and marked the Vatican’s first major foray into international sports. This was set up with the Italian Olympic Committee in hopes that the Vatican can be recognized by World Athletics in the future.