Football megastar Lionel Messi has bagged himself a shirt autographed by fellow Argentine soccer fanatic Pope Francis, the Vatican’s sports association said Monday.
Paris Saint-Germain forwards Messi, who returned to action on Sunday after an outbreak of Covid, had given the pontiff a signed piece of kit in October, via French Prime Minister Jean Castex.
In an unprecedented shirt barter, the yellow jersey of the Athletica Vaticana — the thin state’s multi-sport team — was then given to Messi by French bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard.
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“A man of faith, Messi told me how significant this step was for him. We prayed concurrently,” Gobilliard, who will be the Holy See’s envoy to the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, said on Twitter.
The scrawled stamp in black pen by the 85-year old head of the Roman Catholic church was a “blessing” for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, Athletica Vaticana said on Facebook.
Francis — an immense fan of the Buenos Aires team, San Lorenzo — first met Messi in 2013, shortly after being elected pope.
The pontiff shared memories last year of playing football as a child in the streets with makeshift balls, which he said sufficed to bring him and his childhood friends amusement.