“First Maradona, then Messi and now Pope Francis”
Barcelona striker Lionel Messi wants to meet the new Pope and says the new appointment is something his fellow Argentineans should be proud about.
The world’s top footballer spoke after Argentina’s training session before the World Cup qualifier against Venezuela in Buenos Aires.
“All Argentines are proud the Pope is from here,” Messi said. “Obviously, one day I’d like to meet him.”
Pope Francis is a former archbishop of Buenos Aires and life-long supporter of football club San Lorenzo, which is based in the Argentine capital. Messi, the four-time FIFA world player of the year, grew up as a fan of Newell’s Old Boys, a team located in the city of Rosario.
Messi had congratulated the new Pope in a message on his Facebook account, but this was the first time he talked openly about former Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio.
Lionel Messi, the 2012 winner of the Golden Ball as Europe’s top player is not the only person hitting headlines for his comments about Pope Francis. The coach of Argentina’s national football team, Alejandro Sabella, endorsed Messi’s statements by saying: “He is the first pope to be elected outside a European country and that is a reason for all of us to be proud of. It is one of the most important events in the history of our nation,” Sabella said.
During his tenure as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio’s lieutenant in his city duties, was bishop Eduardo Garcia of Buenos Aires. During a church service in St Peter’s Square, the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Bishop Garcia thanked God for giving Argentina “first Maradona, then Messi and now Francis.”
Bergoglio is known as a humble man. His reputation was affirmed by his sister, Maria Elena, who until the papal appointment lived quietly in the western Buenos Aires suburb of Ituzaingo. She now has the world’s media on her doorstep.
She said the low-key Bergoglio “didn’t want to be pope” and that when he emerged as a contender in the 2005 papal elections she prayed he wouldn’t be elected. She views her brother’s papacy as an “honour” for the family, the country and Latin America as a whole.