Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has explained why he was so desperate to organise a friendly against Argentina in honour of the new Pope.
The two teams will meet at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome next Wednesday, just hours after having an audience with Argentine Pope Francis in the Vatican.
“The idea behind the game was just a sudden flash,” the CT told the Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday. “It came after watching Pope Francis and his first appearances in public.
“He generated a tremendous sense of fondness and approval. The thought of ‘his’ countries, Italy and Argentina, immediately entered my head.
“Two squads leaving together, from the same hotel, to have an audience full of joy and happiness with the Pope.
“The two footballing federations worked together to get it done. And, on Tuesday, it will take place.”
He added: “His first words as Pontiff were about tenderness and compassion. The world today has forgotten what compassion is. Tenderness means being able to accept one’s limitations, one’s own weaknesses.”
Poverty has been high on the agenda of Pope Francis and the religious Prandelli has underlined that the world needs to act.
“There’s too much of a gap between the rich and the poor – that’s totally unacceptable in a civilised society,” the former Fiorentina boss noted.
“The Confederations Cup and the contrast between playing in a brand new stadium and being able to see so much poverty nearby really left a huge impression on me.
“As did the protests outside the grounds before games. When so many young people take to the streets to protest, then people have to listen.
“The priority isn’t football – the priorities are schools, health care, work.
“I believe that the World Cup in Brazil can go hand in hand with an improved social policy. But we mustn’t only think about the situation in South America.
“Such contrasts are also starting to materialise in Europe. If we carry on the way we are, we too will soon be living behind blockades and we too will have our own favelas.”
Turning to footballing matters, Prandelli insisted his international doors were still open to Roma striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo.
“He’s a first team starter in my head. If he’s in good shape and plays regularly then I’ll always call him up. We’ll see what happens.”
The tactician dropped the forward from his Confederations Cup squad for disciplinary reasons at the end of last season.