Florence

Soccer: End to pols' free tickets 'pope-like' says Buffon

Sign 'things can change' like frugal Francis says Italy captain

Soccer: End to pols' free tickets 'pope-like' says Buffon

Florence, March 19 - An end to free tickets to soccer matches for Italian politicians is a "good sign" like those sent by Pope Francis in paying his own way, Italy captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said Tuesday. On Monday the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), which governs all sport in the country, said it was scrubbing the cards that gave free entry to politicians. "CONI's stop to the courtesy cards is a sign like those that have come from the new pope," Buffon said at a training camp for a friendly against Brazil in Geneva Thursday and a World Cup qualifier in Malta next Tuesday. "They are very good signs...that once in a while things can change," said the Juventus keeper. Italian politicians of all stripes, most of whose parties have been hit by public-funding scandals, are regulars at top Serie A games, often picked out by the TV cameras. Before CONI's announcement, many fans did not know they were not paying. Pope Francis's six-day reign has so far been marked by signs he is following the frugal ways of the poor people's saint he chose for his name, St Francis of Assisi. He paid his hotel bill, travelled in a minivan with cardinals, and has scorned many of the trappings and pomp of the papacy.

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