Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Team Spirit, Bertone Style

The SegStat -- known for the occasional turn as a soccer commentator on Italian TV -- wants a Holy See football squad:
"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."...

The cardinal said that football could play an exemplary role in the lives of young people and football stadiums were an ideal spot for Church recruitment.

"Stadiums are modern temples, frequented by thousands of youths. I once carried out a Stations of the Cross service in the Ferraris stadium," he said.

The cardinal announced the Holy See's ambitions during a ceremony in which he was awarded honorary citizenship of Alassio, near Genoa.

He did not make clear how the Holy See — technically an independent state — could legitimately compete in Italy's domestic league. Neither did he indicate how long he imagined it might take for the Vatican to reach Serie A standard.

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, football's governing body Its only international fixture, against Monaco in 2002, ended in a 0-0 draw.

Cardinal Bertone has set up a league of 16 clubs to compete in a new championship for the Clericus Cup.
SVILUPPO: In an interview today with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Bertone called his statement "unrealizable" and a "diversion of fantasy."

Saying that the "hypothetical... has not been considered on the part of the Holy See, the church" or the governing body of European football, the Secretary of State attempted to put the rumors to rest by calling his idea "impossible."

"I've got much more to do than cultivating a football squad for the Vatican," Bertone said.