Football in the Vatican! »How the sport of the king takes place in the smallest state in the world

Article by Bogdan Fechită – Posted Tuesday, 24 May 2022, 19:59 / Updated Tuesday, 24 May 2022 22:04

Football is not missing from the Vatican, the smallest country in the world, although it has only 0.44 square kilometers and only 825 inhabitants. In contrast, the Papal State has four annual sports competitions, as well as two national teams: one men’s and one women’s.

Of the four annual sports competitions organized in the Vatican, three are managed by the Vatican Government and the fourth by the Italian Sports Center (CIS). The three organized by the Government are: the Vatican Championship, the Vatican Cup and the Vatican Super Cup. Employees from the various departments and offices of the Papal State, as well as members of the Swiss Guard, play.

Instead, the competition organized by the CIS is called suggestive “Clericus Cup”, and it is attended only by priests and seminarians from various Vatican schools.

How football started in the Vatican

Football in the Vatican has long roots. The first football match recorded in historical documents was on January 7, 1521, when a match of “calcio fiorentino”, a pioneering sport of today’s football, took place in the presence of Pope Leo X.

The first initiative to organize a modern championship was in 1947, when a Cup was played between four teams, but the football practiced was closer to “calcio fiorentino” than to the modern one. The brutal style of play led to the suspension of the tournament due to “mutual misunderstandings”. An angry quarrel broke out between the players and the spectators, so for a long time only friendly matches were organized between the employees of the different offices.

Over time, the Vatican has often shown its support and sympathy for football: Pope John Paul II was a goalkeeper when he was a junior and a supporter of the MKS Krakow team, Pope Benedict XVI was a supporter of football. Bayern Munich, and Pope Francis supports San Lorenzo, the team from his home country.

Football can be an educational vehicle for values ​​such as honesty, solidarity and brotherhood, especially for the younger generation.

– Pope Benedict XVI

The appearance of the championships and the Vatican Football Association

In 1966, the Hermes football team appeared, consisting of custodians, restorers and other employees of the Vatican Museums. Today, it is simply called the “Vatican Museums.” However, the first tournaments were to appear six years later, with the founding of the Vatican Football Association in 1972.

The first competition, entitled “Friendship Cup”, took place in the same year. Seven teams participated, each representing a department of the Papal State.

Subsequently, the number of teams increased to eight and since then, football competitions have been played constantly every year. The Vatican Championships are not sponsored, but are funded by registration fees of various participants.

The Papal State also provides a small part of the budget. There were also years when the competitions were not held, due to pandemics or due to lack of teams or budget.

Dirseco, the team of employees of the Vatican’s Economic Services Directorate, has the most champion titles: eight! It is followed by the “Vatican Museums” team and ASS Pietro e Paolo, both with four titles each.

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Vatican national team, rivalry with Monaco

In 1985, the Vatican men’s national team began to exist. It is made up of Vatican employees and their relatives. The first matches were played with amateur teams, such as the Austrian journalists’ team (defeated 3-0) or the UN team (3-3 draw).

The first official international match was with San Marino B (0-0). The Vatican’s rival can be considered the national flag of the state monaco, against which he played no less than five matches. The balance is not favorable: two draws and three defeats.

Other important matches were played with Borussia Monchengladbach (two categorical defeats: 1-8 and 4-21), Palestine (1-9) and the Chinese Olympic National Team (4-3). In total, the Vatican men’s national team, coached for a while by Giovanni Trapattoni, has 28 games played, of which only seven wins, 10 draws and 11 defeats, goal difference 59-86.

Why doesn’t the Vatican want to become a member of FIFA or UEFA?

The Vatican is one of the 9 independent countries in the world that is not a member of FIFA or UEFA, although in 2006 a UEFA official opened the doors of the European forum to this end. “We already have states with 30,000 citizens like San Marino, Liechtenstein or Andorra who are our members. If the Vatican wants to become a member of UEFA, all they have to do is apply. If it meets the requirements, it will be accepted, “said William Gaillard.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone reacted at the same time and said that the future of Vatican football is only in amateur games and competitions.

Eight years later, in 2014, Domenico Ruggerio, president of the Vatican Football Association, explained this position: “We prefer to be amateurs. Joining FIFA or UEFA at that level will be like a business.

The important message of friendship and love demonstrated by this sport, by real football, is not compatible with the business football that exists today. It is not only important to win a match, but also how you do it and how you behave. The ethics of the Vatican’s national football team are at odds with FIFA membership. “

The Vatican also has a women’s national football team

About 800 women work in the Vatican, so since 2018, at the initiative of Pope Francis, the women’s soccer national team has also appeared. It is made up of employees, wives and daughters of Vatican employees. The nuns can also play in the team, but so far none have evolved.

The team played only two friendly matches in 2019, with AS Roma Primavera and Trastevere Calcio, both lost. The third friendly with FC Mariahilf was canceled. In the two matches played, 23 players aged 25-50 were used, including a “foreigner”: the Cameroonian Eugenie Tcheugoue, who also played at a high level.

Both teams have the same coach, Gianfranco Guadagnoli, and the equipment is white and yellow. He plays his matches in a 500-seat arena, “Campo Pio XI”, just 400 meters from St. Peter’s Basilica.

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