Lionel Messi and Mario Balotelli meet Pope Francis ahead of Italy v Argentina friendly

Both Italy and Argentina squads visit the Pope before friendly in Rome

Italy will take on Argentina in Rome tomorrow night in a friendly dedicated to an Argentinian who has made a massive impact in Italy – no, not Diego Maradona – but one Pope Francis.

Here is Lionel Messi and Mario Balotelli, who will miss the match with a knee problem, meeting the Pope at the Vatican today. Pope Francis is no stranger to football, he is an ardent San Lorenzo supporter, and must have been devastated they did not complete the deal for Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini over the summer.

Pope John Paul II, was a keen goalkeeper in his youth growing up in his native Poland, while Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI once mused before Euro 2012: “Team sport such as football is an important school in educating people to respect one another - as well as one's opponent - on how to make sacrifices for others and the value of the gifts of each element that makes up the team.

“It is in a word something that bypasses individual logic and of egotism, which often characterises human relations, and replaces it by fraternity and love, one that promotes a genuine good at all levels.”

Francis told the players to remember they are role models on and off the field "for better or worse" – a piece of guidance Balotelli could have taken on board last season.

Balotelli picked up a knee problem in training this week and Italy's football association (FIGC) confirmed today the Milan striker would miss the game.

"Mario Balotelli will not play in the Italy-Argentina game," the FIGC said in a statement.

"The Azzurri attacker, who yesterday had stopped during a light workout due to pain in his knee, has not recovered from his injury and gone back home.”

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Italy's Gianluigi Buffon with the Pope in Rome Argentina's Lionel Messi and Italy's Gianluigi Buffon with the Pope in Rome

 

Mario Balotelli meets the Pope yesterday in Rome with the rest of the Italy squad Mario Balotelli meets the Pope in Rome with the rest of the Italy squad  

 

 

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there