Vatican City: Pope Francis on Friday warned money “risks contaminating” football and called for a return to “sporting dignity” at a Vatican meeting with players from Italian Cup finalists Fiorentina and Napoli.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis (right) receives a ball signed by Fiorentina's players at the Vatican yesterday. Pic/AFP.

“Football is a big business now because of advertising, TV, et cetera. But the economic factor must not prevail over the sporting one because it risks contaminating everything,” he told them.

“As a boy, I used to go to the stadium a lot, I have happy memories. Joyful moments, on Sundays, with my family. I hope football and sports in general regains that sense of a celebration,” he said.

Napoli are marginal favourites against Fiorentina at the match on Saturday in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, hoping to clinch their club’s second finals triumph in three years.