Soccer-loving pope meets world-class stars

Updated 18 August 2013
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Soccer-loving pope meets world-class stars

VATICAN CITY: Two big-name Argentines have had a VIP meeting at the Vatican — Pope Francis and Barcelona football star Lionel Messi.
The player, his fellow teammates on the Argentine national soccer squad as well as Italy’s national team players were enjoying a private audience Tuesday with the first Latin American-born pontiff in the Apostolic Palace.
The players, along with Italian coach Cesare Prandelli and Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella, met the 76-year-old at the Vatican before Wednesday’s game at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Pope Francis joked with the players, saying he was torn over who to support.
“It’s going to be difficult for me, it’s lucky it’s a friendly match! And let’s make sure it is one,” the Argentine pontiff said in a private meeting, which journalists listened to over the speakers in the Vatican’s press room.
On a serious note, the pontiff, a lifelong fan of Argentine club San Lorenzo, called on the teams to make sure they used their popularity to give a good example to their fans.
He told the players to remember they are role models on and off the field “for better or worse.”
Francis also lamented that sport has become big business.
Among those present was AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who is often in the headlines for his behavior on and off the pitch.
The players presented Francis with a personalized shirt from each team with his name on it, as well as a silver vase from the Argentinians and an olive tree from the Italians.
“Please pray for me, so that I too, on the ‘pitch’ God has placed me on, can play an honest and courageous game for the good of everyone,” the pope said at the end of the meeting.


Mohamed Salah named Premier League’s best player of the year at PFA awards

Updated 23 April 2018
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Mohamed Salah named Premier League’s best player of the year at PFA awards

  • Egyptian superstar currently has 30 Premier League goals this season
  • Salah beat the likes of De Bruyne and Kane to the award

LONDON: Mohamed Salah was crowned the Premier League’s Players’ Player of the Year on Sunday, with his incredible 41-goal debut season at Liverpool beating out strong competition from Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne.
“It’s a big honor. I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it,” Salah said at the ceremony on Sunday evening.
Salah matched a Premier League record tally for a single season by scoring his 31st league goal of the campaign in a 2-2 draw at West Brom on Saturday.
“You’re comparing your name with some great names,” he said, on the prospect of breaking the record. “To break the Premier League record is something huge in England and all over in the world.
“There are still three games to go. I want to break this record.”
Salah has also netted seven times in eight Champions League games, including in both legs of Liverpool’s 5-1 quarter-final thrashing of City, to carry his side to a first semifinal for a decade.
De Bruyne showed why he had been many people’s early-season favorite for the prize with an incredible long-range strike for his 12th goal of the season to go with a league-high number of assists as champions City thrashed Swansea 5-0 on Sunday.
“From my point of view when you are analizing 10 months, there is no player better than him,” said City manager Pep Guardiola of the Belgian midfielder.
“Maybe there are numbers better but for me he was the best. But it is my opinion, the opinions of the players could be different. But in the end, in summer time he will be at home being champion.”
City did pick up a prize from the PFA gala in central London on Sunday, though, as Leroy Sane won the Young Player of the Year.
Sane, another City team-mate David Silva, De Bruyne, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and Tottenham striker Harry Kane were the other five nominees for the main prize.