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More than a game: Vatican sends message with soccer


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Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 11/24/23

As the death of a 22-year-old woman has shaken Italy, the Vatican women's soccer team participated in a tournament to fight violence against women.
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In light of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, on November 25, 2023, the Vatican women’s soccer team participated in a tournament with two other teams in Rome on November 18 to draw attention to this cause. The team from the Vatican children’s hospital won the event, which also included another local Italian team, and featured talks and panel discussions on ways to end violence against women. 

“With a simple soccer game, we put together our forces and sent a message that we believe in,” Susan Volpini, the team manager of the Vatican women’s soccer team said. “The fight to counter violence against women must be supported. […] The Holy Father’s thoughts often go to women and, through us, he can support them and stand in solidarity with them.”

This match and international day came at an important moment for Italy, as the country’s headlines have been focused on the death of 22-year-old Giulia Cecchettin. Police forces had been looking for her and her ex-boyfriend, Filippo Turetta, since November 11, after the two disappeared after spending an evening together. Cecchettin’s body was then found on November 18 and Turetta, accused of murdering her, was arrested in Germany the following day, where he was found with his car on the highway. He will now be transferred to Italy to face trial.

The Pope’s strong words on this issue

In a meeting with Catholic media outlets on November 23, Pope Francis referenced “the sad news of these days” on violence against women, without mentioning Cecchettin’s case specifically, and called to “form men capable of healthy relationships.” The Pontiff has called violence against women a poison, and said every person must work against it. 

It is “a poisonous weed that plagues our society and must be pulled up from its roots,” he said in a message published on November 9 for a campaign to counter violence against women. “It is our duty, the responsibility of each person, to give a voice to our voiceless sisters: the women who are victims of abuse, exploitation, marginalization. and undue pressures. Let us not remain indifferent!”

Playing soccer to bring awareness

The women’s soccer team was launched in 2019 and is part of the Vatican’s amateur sports association, ASD Sport in Vaticano. Made up of women who work at the Vatican, or relatives of employees, the team often participates in charity matches to raise money for causes or bring awareness. The association also has other teams such as men’s soccer or padel. 

The November 18 match was played under a clear blue sky and unseasonably warm weather at a sports club in the north of Rome. 

The Vatican’s women’s soccer team, the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital’s team, and a local Italian team, ASD Romulea, faced each other on the field in three matches of around 40 minutes each with a brief pause half-way through. In the end the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital’s team came out victorious. 

An important match

The match was supported by the local municipality and region and government sports committee and also by two Italian organizations dedicated to helping women, Telefono Rosa and Moica. After the match these entities held talks about how to fight violence against women and shared their work. The slogan for the event was “no to abuse, yes to the culture of respect.” 

“Being women — moms, daughters, and even religious sisters — as there is a sister on the team but she didn’t play on Saturday, we feel that this fight to eliminate violence is very close to us,” Susan Volpini said. “These matches mark our presence and that we support and sustain these good causes.” 

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