Card. Gianfranco Ravasi presenting the jersey of the "Pope’s Team - Fratelli tutti". Card. Gianfranco Ravasi presenting the jersey of the "Pope’s Team - Fratelli tutti".  

Pope’s and Roma people's teams in football match against exclusion

The team of the World Rom Organization and the "Pope’s Team - Fratelli tutti" will play a “fraternal” football match on Sunday, November 21 in the training grounds of Italy’s football club, Lazio.

By Vatican News staff reporter

At the initiative of Pope Francis, the representatives of the World Rom Organization and the "Pope’s Team - Fratelli tutti" will play a fraternal football match, which is much more than being just friendly, according to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.  The dicastery on Tuesday presented the Fratelli Tutti match to reporters at a press conference in the Vatican.         

The Fratelli tutti football match will be played on November 21 at 2.30 pm, on the training grounds of Italy’s Lazio football club at Formello, some 25 kilometres north of Rome. 

On this occasion, funds will be raised to support the project "A kick against exclusion”, promoted by the Pope’s Diocese of Rome to encourage the inclusion of the Roma and other most vulnerable people.

Sports, culture and ethics

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. 

He explained that Pope Francis has entrusted the initiative to the Pontifical Council and Athletica Vaticana, the Vatican’s sporting association.  From the very beginning, he said, sports has represented something anthropologically fundamental. Because of its creativity and freedom, sport has always been intertwined with culture.  In classical Greek culture, sport was linked with literature, poetry, theatre and myth.

Among others present at the press conference were Auxiliary Bishop Benoni Ambarus of Rome, Claudio Lotito, president of Lazio football club and Ciro Immobile, Lazio team captain. Representatives of the World Rom Organization were linked by video conference from its headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, along with Apostolic Nunzio to Croatia, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua.

The Pope’s team

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.

Against racism and discrimination

In a statement released earlier, the Pontifical Council said that the Pope accepted the proposal of the World Rom Organization to organize a football match to relaunch the commitment against racism and discrimination.

The Council particularly recalled a particular gesture of inclusion of Pope during his visit to Slovakia in September.   On 14 September he visited the Luník IX neighbourhood in the eastern city of Košice, which has the highest density of Roma people in Slovakia.  Basic services such as gas, running water, sewage system, electricity and heating are scant in the run-down and overcrowded tenement buildings.

Speaking on behalf of the Roma people, the Holy Father called for moving "from prejudice to dialogue, from closures to integration". After listening to the stories of Roma men and women regarding their pain, redemption and hope, he said that to be Church is “to live as a people called by God, each with his or her special role to play, all as members of the same team”.  These words apply perfectly to the meaning of the friendly football match.

The Pope lamented that too often, the Roma have "been the object of preconceptions and merciless judgments, of discriminatory stereotypes, of defamatory words and gestures”. “As a result, we are all poorer, poorer in humanity.”

World Rom Organization efforts

The instructions of Pope Francis on the education of young people are at the core of the inclusive sports experience proposed by the World Rom Organization.  Children and young people are involved in a method aimed at preventing all forms of marginalization, with a special focus on minorities and people with disabilities.  In 2017, the UEFA Foundation for Children recognized and encouraged this educational system on football pitches.


16 November 2021, 16:17