Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has revealed he plans to invite Pope Francis to attend his side's friendly clash with Argentina in Rome.
The Azzurri boss believes it would be a deeply special occasion for the Pope to watch "his countries" in action, although he fears nerves could get the better of him when it comes to speaking to the pontiff.
"I'd like to tell him, 'Tomorrow, if you've nothing better to do, come to the stadium with us.' But I'm afraid I'll lose my voice because of the emotion," Prandelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It was just a sudden flash, after watching Pope Francis and his first appearances in public," he explained of his idea to invite the 76-year-old. "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."
Prandelli also revealed that Mario Balotelli is "really moved" by the prospect of the event, describing the delight it gave the AC Milan star to visit fans in Bahia after speaking with a local missionary during the Confederations Cup.
"Yes, when he asked me whether he could visit the favela following a visit by a missionary from there, you could see the joy in his eyes when I said he could go, even if we were under heavy guard in our hotel," Prandelli said. "Balotelli is big-hearted enough and sensitive enough to be really moved by the meeting with the Pope."
- Sports & Recreation