Vatican squashes soccer team idea

Wed, 12/20/2006 - 05:44

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone squashed the idea that the Holy See might field its own soccer team Tuesday, insisting he was joking when he made the proposal.

"It was fantasy fun to spread some cheer and maybe fill half a page of the newspapers," Cardinal Bertone said on Vatican Radio.

"The truth is that it's impossible. I have other things to do than organize a soccer team".

At the weekend Cardinal Bertone said he did not "exclude the possibility that the Vatican may set up a great soccer team, as good as Roma, Inter Milan, Genoa and Sampdoria, in the future".

The story hit the headlines in the Italian and international press.

It was given credibility by the fact that Cardinal Bertone is known to be a big football fan. When he was archbishop of Genoa he even commented on soccer matches for local TV networks.

On Monday UEFA spokesperson William Gaillard told ANSA that he saw no reason why the Vatican should not have a national team in international competitions.

"We already have states of 30,000 citizens like San Marino, Liechtenstein and Andorra," Gaillard said.

"If the Vatican wants to become a member of UEFA all it has to do is apply. If it meets the requirements, it will be accepted".

But Cardinal Bertone insisted Tuesday that the Vatican's football future lies only in amateur games and competitions, like Monday's tournament featuring teams of Swiss Guards and Vatican Museum staff.

The Vatican has fielded informal national football teams of amateurs on a handful of occasions.

The Vatican took on San Marino in 1994 and Monaco in 2002 - both games ended goalless.

Earlier this year the Holy See's side also thrashed Swiss minor-league outfit SV Vollmond 5-1.

This team, which plays in the Vatican state colours of white and yellow, is not recognized by soccer's European and world governing bodies, UEFA and FIFA.