What I know about soccer rules and playbooks and what the various zones mean on a soccer field and what causes a penalty could be written on the head of a pin. I am a fan of soccer when it is a question of a championship games like the Euro2020 or World Cup matches. If Italy and the U.S. are playing, I cheer them on! If they are not in the championship game, I am less interested.

I am however, a hugely passionate fan of the “other” football – the NFL and AFL football. I am really passionate about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame University and have a few favorite pro teams as well (I grew up near Chicago so the Bears have always been a favorite). Anyone who has only known me from my Rome years and does not know about my love for football would be amazed to see me in a stadium! They’d see a Joan they did not know existed!

Soccer (the real foot ball) was relatively unknown in the United States when I was growing up, and what we Americans call football was the sport and what I knew. My nephews and nieces were of the generation introduced to soccer and it is their children who are now playing the game at all levels of school.

Below is the diary of an email exchange last night with my niece Christie who played soccer growing up, as did her siblings, and her own children have been involved in this sports for most of their young lives. It was obvious that she was following the game in Wisconsin!

The first email I got from Christie was, as you can see, at 10:27 pm (Rome time), and that prompted the email exchange. I alternate between her emails and mine.

10:27 pm – GOOOOOOOAL!!!! NOW we have a game!!!

11:06 – We are in what they call tempi supplementari – supplemental times?….not sure how to say that in English! Am on the edge of my seat!

11:17 – We call it ‘extra minutes’ on this side of the pond! Haha – crazy!! It’s so late there! We’re on the edge of our seats too!  Go ITALIA!

11:42 – Now we go to a shoot out! Not sure my heart can take this!

11:55 – OH MY GOSH THEY WON!!!

11:56 – OMGracious! We did it! Awesome! Wish we were together! Will call tomorrow!

12:51 – (Joan) It is unbelievable here and I am not even in the center of Rome! Cars, motorbikes, scooters, flags, horns, any kind of noisemaker! La Vittoria was closed this evening as I had hoped to watch the game there, and the only other restaurant in my neighborhood where I would have gone was also closed. I called a friend of mine who has a great restaurant near the Pantheon and I went there for dinner and watched the game until the start of the second half. I wanted to be home by the end of the game for several reasons. One was because I know that transportation ended at 9 pm for busses and there probably would not be a taxi in Rome available at the end of the game, especially if it was a victory for Italy. In addition I know what the center would have been like in the event of an Italy victory – I have experienced that before. So I watched the regulation end of the game and the two overtimes and then the shoot out in my own home. I am utterly delighted for Italy especially because of all it has gone through in the last 18 months with Covid. So many people suffered, so many businesses closed, so many restaurants closed as well. And that is not to mention the deaths that Italy suffered in the first six months of the pandemic. Thus, I am overjoyed for the nation that I love so well. And Christie, if there was a story that could put papal surgery and convalescence off the front pages of newspapers, it was an international soccer match! Wish we could have watched this together!

Love and hugs,

12:55 – PS. It is nearly 1 am! I’m watching local news on TV! I never would have made it home had I stayed at the restaurant! Every piazza and main street between the center and my home is filled with people. Such fun!


And that it was! Wonderful, crazy, happy fun! A late night!

In her final email, Christie reminded me of July 2000 when she, her Mom and Dad (my brother Bill) and 4 siblings were in Italy on an unforgettable trip. On July 3, hours before they were to fly back to the States, we were in the Apostolic Palace where Pope John Paul welcomed all eight of us in audience!

As we were lining up, I introduced everyone to Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s secretary whom I had known for years. He asked if we liked soccer and everyone smiled and happily nodded ‘yes’. I think it was the happy smiles that discombobulated Msgr. Stanislaw because he then asked, with a slight frown on his face, if we had seen the championship match the previous evening when Italy had played France but lost 2-1! The kids had, in fact, watched the game at my place while Bill, Anne and I attended a U.S. embassy July 4 party. We all expressed our real sorrow at the loss Italy suffered!

What I best remember about that audience is that, after I greeted John Paul, Msgr. Stanislaw placed me to the Pope’s right so that I could individually introduce Bill, Anne and the kids!




July 12, 2021: Statement by Holy See Press Office director, Matteo Bruni (released only in Italian today):

His Holiness Pope Francis spent a quiet day and completed the post-operative course.

In order to optimize the medical and rehabilitation therapy, the Holy Father will remain hospitalized for a few more days.

Yesterday, before the recitation of the Angelus, he wanted to meet some young patients from the nearby oncology ward with their families who, subsequently, accompanied him to the 10th floor balcony on the occasion of the Marian prayer

At the end, he greeted the patients hospitalized on the floor, chatting briefly with the medical and nursing staff. In the afternoon he celebrated Holy Mass in the private chapel with the staff who assist him daily.

In sharing the joy of the victory of the Argentine and Italian national teams with the people who are close to him, His Holiness dwelt on the meaning of sport and its values, and on that sporting ability to be able to accept any result, even defeat : “Only in this way, faced with the difficulties of life, can we always get involved, fighting without giving up, with hope and trust.”