Pope Francis: the berobed football fan

Football legend Diego Maradona shared a moment with Pope Francis, a football enthusiast, ahead of the inter-religious charity match for peace last year. AP

Football legend Diego Maradona shared a moment with Pope Francis, a football enthusiast, ahead of the inter-religious charity match for peace last year. AP

MANILA, Philippines — Not known to many, Pope Francis is an avid football fan who once organized an interreligious football match promoting world peace.

The charity football match was attended by football’s past and present stars and also gathered people of various religions to one pitch — a historic event held in Rome’s Olympic Stadium in September 2014.

Prior to the game, football greats led by Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest of all time, met fellow Argentinian Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Maradona also handed Pope Francis an Argentina jersey with the name “Francisco” emblazoned on the back with the same jersey No. 10 as the iconic striker.

Another Argentinian football legend in Lionel Messi also met Pope Francis during the same event.

And as the Pontiff makes his first trip here, people in Tacloban City, one of the places Pope Francis is set to visit during his five-day trip, will launch the Santo Papa Futbol Cup — a three-day football festival from Jan. 15 to 17 for the survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).

The Papal Visit is centered on the victims of the Supertyphoon, which claimed thousands of lives in Eastern Visayas.

Last year, Pope Francis also met with team members of the San Lorenzo Club, a team he has supported since he was a kid.

The Pope also donated some of his prized football collections, including signed shirts and specially designed football boots to the Vatican Museums.

The boots sport the colors of the Vatican with the name “Francis” written on the side.

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