Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018
VATICAN CITY

Soccer: Lazio, Roma meet pope before Cup final

English
© ANSA

Vatican City, May 22 - Delegations from soccer
clubs AS Roma and Lazio met Pope Francis at his weekly audience
in St Peter's Square on Wednesday before the city rivals face
face off in Sunday's Italian Cup final.
Roma captain Francesco Totti was visibly moved after
speaking with the pontiff.
''I had the impression I was dealing with a humble
person,'' the former Italy striker said.
''Meeting him gave me a sense of security and humanity''.
The Roma squad presented the pope with a personalized
jersey bearing the number 1.
''He put everyone at ease and when we gave him the jersey,
it was a unique experience,'' added Totti.
Sunday's match between the two Serie A teams will mark the
first time that the final, at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, is also a
Rome derby.
The papal blessing on both teams was also witnessed by
Maurizio Beretta, president of the Serie A League, who offered
the Pope a small replica of the Italian Cup.
Lazio Chairman Claudio Lotito was so struck by the presence
of the Pope that he pulled a set of rosary beads from his pocket
and asked Francis to bless them before putting them away
carefully.
Roma Chairman James Pallotta was equally star-struck.
''I come from a Catholic family and meeting with the Pope
is one of the most exciting experiences I've ever had'' said
Pallotta, who is part of a Boston consortium that made Roma
Serie A's first foreign-controlled club in 2011.
''It's a dream come true,'' added Pallotta, who also has a
stake in the Boston Celtics and gave Francis a shirt of the NBA
team.
''The blessing of Pope Francis will definitely bring luck
to our team''.
Lotito's Lazio squad is expecting the same.
The event itself may need some luck as many are concerned
the final could be marred by the type of violence that has
frequently hit Rome derbies in the past, including the league
match between the sides in April.
Four people were arrested for involvement in the violence
that saw eight people stabbed in a series of running battles.
None were seriously injured, even though an ambulance
arriving to provide medical assistance was attacked too. Police
intervened with tear gas and seized knives, screwdrivers, clubs
and even an axe.
There has been even worse trouble in previous years.
In 1979, Lazio fan Vincenzo Paparelli was hit in the eye
and killed by a flare fired by a Roma fan from the opposite end
of the stadium.
A derby in 2004 was abandoned when hard-core ultra fans
walked up to pitch to tell the players about reports that a
child had been killed by a police car outside the stadium. The
reports were false.
A long battle ensued between police and fans outside the
ground afterwards.
Francis met a delegation from Serie A champions Juventus on
Tuesday.

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