Cassocks for goalposts: Cardinal plans Vatican FC

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The Independent Online

Footballers across Italy were throwing punches and dodging coins at the weekend. But if there is any truth in the redemptive power of religion, that could all change when the Vatican fields its own professional team, in the papal yellow and white strip.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the new Secretary of State, the number two in the Holy See. He is also a passionate football fan - a Juventus supporter since his days as a Salesian seminarian in Turin - and the only cardinal to have commentated on the sport on the radio.

On Sunday, the cardinal let journalists in on his little dream. "I don't exclude the possibility that in the future the Vatican could field a football team of the greatest value, at the level of the most famous professional clubs," he said.

He appeared to leave open the question of whether the Vatican side would compete as a club or as a national team.

The raw material was in place, the cardinal pointed out. "If, for example, we took all the Brazilian students from our pontifical universities, we could make a magnificent team," he said.

William Gaillard, a spokesman for Uefa, the governing body of European football, backed the cardinal's idea. He said: "The Vatican is a sovereign state recognised by the UN, and we would have no problem in accepting it as a member."

Home games might be a problem, however. As the area of the Vatican state is only 0.2 square miles, a stadium would require the demolition of St Peter's. Even the cardinal is not proposing that.