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Can Vatican seminarians outplay these former pro footballers?

Robert-Pires-Varietes-club-de-france-AFP-066_DPPI_40921032_168.jpg

JEAN CATUFFE / DPPI VIA AFP

Robert Pires of VCF during the friendly charity football match between Varietes Club de France (VCF) and CHI PSG (hospital de Poissy) to benefit Fondation des Hopitaux, on October 14, 2021.

I.Media - published on 02/27/23

A French team will be in Rome for a pilgrimage -- to meet the Pope and try their luck against a group of seminarians.

A French team that brings together former professional footballers, The Variétés Club de France, will travel to Rome from March 21 to 23, 2023, on a “pilgrimage,” says team manager Jacques Vendroux. A Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, a meeting with Pope Francis, and a match against a team of priests and seminarians are on the program.

“After these three days, we will leave Rome forgiven of our sins,” says a smiling Jacques Vendroux, a famous sports journalist and head of the VCF team since 1971.

Fourteen years after challenging a team of Swiss Guards in Rome and attending an audience with Benedict XVI, the players of this unusual club return to the Eternal City to face a team of Roman seminarians and priests named Fratelli tutti – All Brothers – after Pope Francis’ latest encyclical.

“This trip was really proposed as a pilgrimage,” explains Bishop Gobilliard, the new bishop of Digne (France), the French episcopate’s delegate for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, and a member of the VCF.

In all, a little more than 100 people will make the trip to Rome, including the wives of the players. “We’re going to pray for all our families and loved ones who are suffering,” adds the 55-year-old bishop.

The Mass, celebrated on March 22 at 8 a.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica, will be for all the deceased of the families present. “We have players who come from the Jewish religion and others who are Muslims … But we are all very happy to be able to come in a step of faith,” said Vendroux.

A meeting with Pope Francis is also planned, either during the general audience on Wednesday morning or on Thursday morning at the Apostolic Palace.

“It is a dream for us to meet the Pope! It’s surreal and it will be one of the great moments of the Variétés Club de France,” says Vendroux, who would like to offer the Argentine pope a bottle of whisky from 1936, the year of his birth.

If in 2009, the Variétés won by 4 goals to 1 against the Swiss Guards, the match could be more complicated this time. Giampaolo Mattei, the president of Athletica Vaticana (the Vatican’s sports club), has assembled a team of 18 players especially for the event. “He has taken it very seriously and has selected, among others, African seminarians and priests who have a very good level and who have been training since September,” says Bishop Gobilliard.

This will be the VCF’s 2,435th game. As with every game, the club will leave a donation to a local charity. Over the past 52 years, it has donated nearly 6 million euros.

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