Soccer: Italy boss to 'try' to invite pope to Argentina game

Prandelli fears he will lose voice because of emotion

Soccer: Italy boss to 'try' to invite pope to Argentina game

Rome, August 8 - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said he will try to invite Pope Francis to next week's friendly against Argentina at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, but he fears he will not be able to speak because of the emotion. Next Wednesday's friendly between the Azzurri and the pope's homeland was organised to honour Francis after he was elected the first pontiff from the Americas at March's conclave. The pope, an avid soccer fan, will have an audience with the two teams on Tuesday. The Vatican has said there are no plans as yet for him to attend the match. "I'd like to tell him, 'tomorrow, if you've nothing better to do, come to the stadium with us'. But I'm afraid I'll lose my voice because of the emotion," Prandelli said in an interview published in Thursday's La Gazzetta dello Sport. Prandelli added in the interview that he has been impressed by the pope's modest style and his focus on the poor and weak. "His precise, immediate instructions, his keeping his habits intact, his first words devoted to tenderness and compassion won me over," the coach said. Argentina forward Lionel Messi, the world's best player, and Italy star Mario Balotelli, will be among the players received by the pontiff. Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain, recently signed by Napoli and selected for his country's squad for the match, will be among the players too. Pope Francis got a shirt with countryman Messi's name on it from well-wishers at a general audience in April, about a month after his election. The soccer-loving pope was visibly delighted by the gift, a No.10 Barcelona replica shirt with four-time world player of the year Messi's name on. The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a fan of one of the Argentine capital's clubs, San Lorenzo. The club said this week that Francis pays "religiously" to keep up his membership.

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