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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 13:05 GMT
Italy holds priestly 'world cup'
The Clericus Cup
The winner of the Clericus Cup will not emerge for several months
An international football tournament for Catholic priests and seminarians is set to kick off in Italy on Saturday.

Clergy from 50 states attending Rome's many seminaries are taking part in the Clericus Cup, organised by the Vatican and an Italian sports body.

Games will last an hour, with one time-out, and a blue card will be used to send off offenders for five minutes.

The winner will be decided in the final in June. Most games will be played at a Vatican football pitch in Rome.

"We want to raise the awareness of current and future leaders of parishes and Church communities of the educational and pastoral importance of sport," Edio Costantini of organisers the Italian Sporting Centre said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Priests and seminarians during the presentation in Rome on 20 February 2007
Sixteen teams have entered

"I expect [the cup] to create a friendly relationship among the players and the teams," Emil Martin, a player with the Pontifical Urban College team, told the Associated Press news agency.

"I hope each one can learn to win but also to lose because not everybody knows how to lose," he added.

Italian sports officials have expressed hopes that the tournament will help restore a positive image of football in Italy, where the game had been marred by recent violence and scandals.


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