As the world deals with World Cup withdrawal, we can look forward to some of the biggest names in soccer coming together to play a friendly match in the name of friendship during the first "Inter-Religious Match for Peace" on September 1 at Rome's Olympic Stadium.
Retired star Javier "Pupi" Zanetti, a Catholic, was tapped by the Vatican to organize the match in conjunction with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. Italy's Roberto Baggio and France's Zinedine Zidane will also take part, reports Catholic News Agency. Lionel Messi, Francesco Totti, Gianluigi Buffon, and Jose Mourinho may participate as well, according to L'Osservatore Romano. Football players of all religions have been invited, according to the Vatican Insider.
Pope Francis, a die-hard soccer fan, explicitly commissioned the interfaith match, says L'Osservatore Romano. He's been vocal about the benefits of sports, recently tweeting, "The World Cup allowed people from different countries and religions to come together. May sport always promote the culture of encounter."
Zanetti agrees, commenting, "How many values can we bear witness to simply by playing a game?” He added that he feels that the match will be “a symbolic gesture to help people understand that it is possible to build a world of peace, based on dialogue and respect for others.”