Papal charity shuns cash over Fifa scandal

An educational charity launched by Pope Francis said on Thursday it will no longer accept money from South America's football confederation until allegations of massive corruption in world football are laid to rest.

Papal charity shuns cash over Fifa scandal
Pope Francis catches a football shirt thrown by a pilgrim. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP

Scholas Occurrentes had been due to receive a $10,000 donation from the CONMEBOL federation for every goal and penalty kick scored during the Copa America, the South American championship which kicked off on Thursday in Chile.

But after several current or former CONMEBOL executives were indicted by the United States as part of its sweeping investigation into allegations of corruption at the heart of Fifa, the charity said it no longer wanted to be part of the so-called “Goals for Schools” program.

“Scholas Occurrentes will abstain from accepting any funds until the criminal investigation clarifies things and will stand by its founding decision to work together with football and all other sports to transmit the values of a culture of encounter,” the charity's director, Jose Maria delCorral, said in a statement.

He said it was important the investigation complete its work to “safeguard the integrity of our institutions and of football, which was and remains a significant cultural vehicle for our youths and our peoples.”

Pope Francis launched Scholas Occurrentes in 2013 to promote education in poor communities through sports, the arts and technology.

The Argentinian is a lifelong football fan and devoted supporter of Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo.

The wide-ranging scandal at Fifa led the president of the world football governing body, Sepp Blatter, to resign last week, just days after winning re-election.

Those indicted in the US investigation include CONMEBOL executive committee members Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil, as well as former federation presidents Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.