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!



Pope Francis has been meeting today with his council of cardinal advisors, now numbering 6 prelates instead of the original 9. It has been a quiet day here (including a public transportation strike), and pretty much the only noise you hear are fans and AC running to combat the high temperatures.

Warnings are out about high temps expected this week in France in particular where the 2019 FIFA women’s soccer tournament is being played.

A months-long super heat wave in 2003 went down in the history books, as you can see from this wikipedia report from various news sources: The 2003 European heat wave led to the hottest summer on record in Europe since at least 1540.France was hit especially hard. The heat wave led to health crises in several countries and combined with drought to create a crop shortfall in parts of Southern Europe. Peer-reviewed analysis places the European death toll at more than 70,000. The predominant heat was recorded in July and August, partly a result of the western European seasonal lag from the maritime influence of the Atlantic warm waters in combination with hot continental air and strong southerly winds.

I have actually not been out of the house today. I am awaiting confirmation of a late afternoon or early evening appointment but other than that will probably not venture out.

I did go to a concert last night at the Anglican church of St. Paul’s Within the Walls with my friend, Marie, who works for Air Canada and was in town for the night. We were treated to some opera arias and then listened to a stunning rendition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with a wonderfully talented stringed sextet.

(Someday, one of the systems I try to use to enlarge photos will work!)

There were fans but no AC inside the church. The fans were turned off for the soprano but back on (mercifully!) for Vivaldi! The doors for the 8:30 concert opened at 7:30 and guests were served a very small plate of pasta “arrabbiata” as soon as you stepped inside. That was included in the ticket price but water or wine was extra. The water was a blessing, for sure! A late and light meal at La Vittoria, sitting outside with a hint of a breeze, topped off the day,


The following communiqué was issued yesterday afternoon by D.VA, Women in the Vatican, an official Vatican association, regarding the incident in Austria that occurred between the Vatican women’s soccer team and a team from Austria on June 22:
“Following the ugly episode that took place on Saturday 22 June in Vienna, which saw the cancellation of the (soccer) match between the female team of the Vatican and its Austrian rival, the Women in the Vatican Association expresses regret and regret over the incident.

“As you know, the newly-formed Vatican team was forced to give up the scheduled game with the FC Mariahilf team due to an unfortunate and unpleasant provocation. The exploitation of the sports meeting not only offended the components of the Vatican formation, and the Vatican itself represented by it, but damaged the very idea of sport, fair competition between opponents, not enemies.

“Taking advantage of a football match to contest the well-known positions of the Catholic Church in support of life and sexuality with gestures, writings and banners was in fact an entirely inappropriate choice. But in what happened, we see something more: because it was women, even if not only, who put themselves against other women. We, women, would like to say to them that acceptance, capacity for dialogue, respect also for those with different ideas are qualities we must never give up, because they are part of our richness and diversity as women. A football field is certainly not the right place to lead an ideological battle but rather, as it has always been conceived, sport must be experienced as a place for meeting and promoting fraternity and peace. Otherwise the consequences are further closures and increasingly deeper separations.”


(EWTN/CNA).- Vienna’s FC Mariahilf (FCM) football team has issued a statement of regret after a friendly with the Vatican women’s football team was cancelled Saturday after several FCM members lifted their jerseys while the Vatican anthem was playing, displaying painted ovaries and pro-abortion messages.

The Vatican soccer team, who had been invited to Vienna by FCM, decided not to go ahead with the June 22 match.

“The action of the three players was independently organized and carried out,” FCM stated. “We sincerely apologize to the Vatican team’s players and guests from near and far that the game was not played.”

The club noted that, “tolerance, diversity, of life forms, and peaceful coexistence are important to us, as we have pointed out with rainbow symbols. We therefore understand the demands and message of our players, but we find the timing of their expression inappropriate and therefore understand the emotion it caused.”

The friendly was scheduled to kick off in the early afternoon in a sports arena in Wien-Simmering. Beforehand, both sides had participated in a prayer service and blessing of the pitch.

Austrian state broadcaster ORF quoted one of the FCM players involved in the protest as saying the activists were “not aware of the consequences of their action in any way and would have liked to play the football match”.

The activists also handed out leaflets to journalists attending the match. These stated that the activists did not assent to the Church’s teaching on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“They were not aware that the timing of the action during the playing of the Vatican anthem and in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio could be detrimental to the idea of sport and ruin many weeks of preparation,” reported the ORF.

When announcing the upcoming game, the German section of Vatican News reported FCM founder Ernst Lackner as saying he had initially not expected that the Vatican team would really accept the invitation, but that the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, had assured the Vatican team that FC Mariahilf was a serious team that was also strongly committed to charity.

The papal women’s football team had its first appearance in 2018 and immediately received an invitation from FCM, which is currently playing in the Wiener Landesliga, the third highest league in domestic women’s football


I will keep you posted as the games progress – there are a lot of  fun and interesting statistics involved with this international edition of Clericus Cup. The final, by the way, will be played on Saturday, May 26.

The images shown below are from past matches.


The Italian acronym CSI has nothing to do with crime scenes and forensics experts and everything to do with sports, in particular football – or, as it is called in the States, soccer. CSI stands for Centro Sportivo Italiano – Italian Sports Center – whose initiative, the Clericus Cup, kicks off this Saturday in Rome.

Under the sponsorship of the Italian Episcopal Conference and its pastoral ministry for Sports and Leisure, CSI is promoting Clericus Cup 2018, a soccer tournament open to seminarians and priests from colleges, universities, convents and pontifical seminaries in the city and province of Rome. The first games are scheduled for February 24 in the elimination phase.

The North American College, the U.S. national seminary in Rome, has played every year in this tourney and the team, the North American Martyrs, have won several championships.

The idea for this Cup might have come from remarks made years ago by then Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, an avid soccer fan who has, even as cardinal, had announced soccer matches on Italian radio for his beloved Turin team, Juventus.

He once jokingly told Italian reporters, “I do not rule out that in the future the Vatican could form a top soccer team of the level of Inter or Roma,” – other top notch Italian teams. He added that the Holy See, for example, could form “a magnificent team” by drawing on the hundreds of Brazilian students at its pontifical universities around the world.

The Clericus Cup Rules and Regulations are posted on the CSI web site, and include information on uniforms and game dates. There is no cost but players must enrol in CSI and there may be from 14 to 20 players on a team. Each team can field 11 players. Matches will be played on Saturdays, say the Rules, and will last one hour instead of the 90 minutes for professional soccer.

In American football, there is what is known as the “Hail Mary pass,” a forward pass thrown in a moment of desperation whose chances of being caught usually range from little to nil. Will players in the Clericus Cup have a Hail Mary kick?

Let the Games begin!