"May each one of you be a beacon of loyalty, honesty, harmony and humanity." This was the message Pope Francis gave to the players of Juventus and Lazio on Tuesday morning, as players, coaching staff and management from the two teams attended a private reception in the Apostolic Palace's Clementine Hall in Vatican City. The match officials for the Coppa Italia final and representatives of CONI, FIGC, Lega Serie A and AIA were also in attendance.
After FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio had said a few words and thanked the Pope for meeting the teams, His Holiness reminded the players of the great responsibility they bear, "considering the power and influence professional football has over people, especially young persons."
"Those that are considered great players quickly become role models," continued the Pope. "Therefore, each match is about finding a balance based on maintaining control and observing the rules. If you can encapsulate all of that in how you behave, you will set an example for all who admire you.
"Sadly, episodes of violence sometimes take place in stadiums, disrupting the smooth running of matches and ruining the healthy enjoyment of the people there. I hope that you do everything in your power to ensure that sporting activity maintains just so and, through the personal actions of all, helps to promote cohesion between sportspeople and in society as a whole."
Juventus’ delegation, which was situated on the left side of the hall, was made up of the squad and coaching staff, vice president Pavel Nedved, Giuseppe Marotta, Fabio Paratici and Maurizio Lombardo. Lazio, on the other side of the room, were represented by the squad, president Claudio Lotito and sporting director Igli Tare. Representatives of Italy’s sports authorities sat in the middle of the room, including CONI president Giovanni Malagò, FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio, FIGC director general Michele Uva, Lega Serie A director general Marco Brunelli and AIA president Marcello Nicchi.