Pope praises soccer team

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI greeted a third division Italian soccer team yesterday, praising the club for signing on to a programme by a Christian sports organisation that seeks to promote ethics in soccer.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI greeted a third division Italian soccer team yesterday, praising the club for signing on to a programme by a Christian sports organisation that seeks to promote ethics in soccer.

Wearing red jerseys, the players of the Ancona team were among the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square for the pope's weekly audience.

"I encourage them to work so that the game of soccer may become ever more an instrument of education to the ethical and spiritual values of life," Benedict told the crowd.

The team's captain later presented Benedict with Ancona's pennant as well as a red-and-white soccer ball.

The agreement between Ancona and the Italian Sports Centre, a Christian organisation that promotes education through sport, provides for higher ethical standards in the administration of the club as well as in the behavior of players and fans.

Last year, Italian soccer was hit by a corruption scandal, and fan violence remains a problem, as it is elsewhere in Europe. Under the "Project Soccer" deal, parents of young players will be helped in raising their children. - Sapa-AP

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