Soccer-loving pope meets world-class stars

8/13/2013
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Italy-Soccer-Argentina

Argentine forward Lionel Messi runs during a training session at the Rome Olympic stadium, Monday, Aug.12, 2013. Argentina will play Italy in a friendly match scheduled for Wednesday, Aug.14. Both teams players and staff members will be received by Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican the day before the match. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

VATICAN CITY — Two big-name Argentines have had a VIP meeting at the Vatican — Pope Francis and Barcelona football star Lionel Messi.

The player, his fellow teammates on the Argentine national soccer squad as well as Italy’s national team players were enjoying a private audience today with the first Latin American-born pontiff in the Apostolic Palace. The teams meet Wednesday in Rome in a friendly match.

Francis told the players to remember they are role models on and off the field “for better or worse.” He asked for their prayers for himself “on the playing field God put me on.”

Francis lamented that sport has become big business.