Photo: FC Barca's Lionel Messi Meets Pope
The two most famous Argentines alive met here Tuesday as Pope Francis granted a special audience to striker Leo Messi and the other members of the Argentina and Italy national soccer teams on the eve of a friendly to honor the first Latin American pontiff.
“It has been a special day,” the man regarded by many as the world’s best soccer player said during a press conference in the Vatican.
“I am proud to have been here to see the pope, also because he is Argentine. Soccer has taken me around the world, to the most incredible places. But this has been truly a special, unforgettable day,” Messi said.
The FC Barcelona star said that while the crush of people made a personal conversation with the pope impossible, he took to heart Francis’ call on athletes to set a good example both on and off the field.
“I hope tomorrow will be beautiful match and that the people can enjoy themselves,” Messi said of Wednesday’s Argentina-Italy contest at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
The forward, however, will not be part of the show, as he left for Barcelona hours after the papal audience.
Messi, who missed Barça’s final exhibition match in Malaysia due to injury, accepted the advice of the Argentine team doctors to skip the match in Rome.