Leo Messi is out of Italy-Argentina due to injury, but he was inspired by meeting Pope Francis. “Respect is the basis of everything.”
The two squads met with the Pontiff in the Vatican today ahead of Wednesday’s friendly match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Both Messi and Mario Balotelli waited until after this meeting to leave the training camps with minor injuries.
Balotelli has a swollen knee and Messi a small muscular problem.
“The Pope is right: respect for your fellow man and your opponents is the basis of everything, both on the field and in life,” said Messi after the encounter.
“This is the only way we can become better men and footballers. At the same time, we players can back up his message and satisfy his requests by offering an even greater spectacle.”
The friendly match was set up to honour Pope Francis and send a message of fair play, so the two teams are staying in the same hotel and will travel to the stadium together.
“We consider Italy to be our brothers,” added Argentina Coach Alejandro Sabella.