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FOOTBALL

Vatican gets its first women’s football team

More than three decades after the Vatican first put out a men's team, women are finally putting on its yellow jersey and white shorts and bearing the keys of St. Peter and papal tiara crest.

Vatican gets its first women's football team
A training session behind the Vatican. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

For 35 years the world's smallest state has put out a men's team that for one match in 2010 was coached by European Cup winner Giovanni Trapattoni, while eight teams have competed in its men's championship has for nearly half a century, with players coming from the iconic Swiss Guards, Museums and the economic services.

“We thought the time was right to try to organise something, training and matches, also for women,” Danilo Zennaro, a representative of the Vatican sports association, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Nuns on the run: Vatican launches its first athletics team

And for a few months now, a group of about 20 women — including Vatican employees, wives and workers from the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital administered by the Holy See — meet once or twice a week to train on the grounds of the Pius XI sports centre in the shadow of the Dome of St. Peter.

The training kits are mismatched, the level of play variable, but serious effort is being made ahead of a match with Serie A side Roma and then a tournament in Vienna later this month, with the session continuing until late into the night.


Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“We are a very heterogeneous group, there are young people aged about 25 and 50-year-olds,” said 35-year-old Vatican employee Maura Turoli, who has little footballing experience but now plays as a defender.

“It's wonderful to be on the pitch and see husbands and children waiting for us and supporting us on the other side of the fence.”

'Message of union'

Although Pope Francis recently spoke of football as “the most beautiful game”, the three words “football”, “women” and “Vatican” are not necessarily ones people would put together in the same sentence.

But Turoli says that they “will try to disprove this idea and show that we have our place”. 


'We have our place': Maura Turoli of the Vatican Women's Team. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Teammate Floriana Di Iorio, who was already part of the women's team at the Bambino Gesu hospital, says this team “goes beyond sport” and wants to “spread a message of great openness”.

“The main objective is to convey a message of union, to be consistent, to keep our enthusiasm and perhaps also to be examples in places where the role of woman is still seen as a little marginal.”

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A “spirit of union” is also what team coach, Gianfranco Guadagnoli, who works in the Vatican Post Office, wants to achieve.

“We've just started this group, the first training session was one of pain, problems … But they are doing better than expected,” said Guadagnoli, who also coaches the men's team.

“We've never played a 11-a-side and on a big pitch, but Roma have come forward and … we will try, even if our means are not those of a Serie A team. It does not matter, we go with our qualities and whatever happens happens, without problems or dramas.”


Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The match proceeded as expected, with a game reduced to two 20-minute halves ending in a double-figures defeat and a baptism of fire for a trailblazing team. 

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FOOTBALL

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.

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