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CL: Bayern Munich get papal blessing after thrashing Roma

Vatican City: A day after thrashing local club Roma 7-1, Bayern Munich staff and players yesterday paid a visit to the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as Pope Francis.

Pope Francis greets FC Bayern Munich head coach Josep Guardiola at the Vatican yesterday. Pic/AFP
Pope Francis greets FC Bayern Munich head coach Josep Guardiola at the Vatican yesterday. Pic/AFP

Club captains Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer and coach Pep Guardiola presented the football-loving pontiff with a Bayern shirt signed by all the players with the German version of his chosen name, Franziskus, and a Number 1 printed on the back.

Big fan
Francis, an Argentine who follows Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, praised the Bayern squad for their Champions League demolition job in the Olympic Stadium.

"You played a wonderful game yesterday," he was quoted as saying on Bayern's website, adding: "Football is good and healthy, and a good role model for children as a team sport."

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who spent three seasons in Italy with Internazionale, chatted with the pontiff in Italian, telling him that the audience had been a "great honour".

Fond memories
Francis responded that he had fond memories of the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico, in which Rummenigge scored one of Germany's goals in a 3-2 defeat by Argentina.

Rummenigge also announced that the club would be donating one million euros in proceeds from an upcoming friendly match for Francis to pass on to a charity or charities of his choice.

"It was very special, especially for those who are Catholic," said Neuer later. "It was a great moment in the history of the club." After blessing the group, Francis brought the audience to a close in German, saying: "Thank you for your visit. Pray for me, I need it."

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