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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Pope to attend football match
The Pope receives a Lazio shirt from the Roman team's president
The Pope receives a Lazio shirt from the club president
By David Willey in Rome

The Pope is to attend a football match at Rome's Olympic stadium on Sunday as part the Vatican's year-long celebrations marking the beginning of the third Christian millennium.

It will be the first time in history that a Pope has attended a football game - a feature of the Vatican's 'jubilee of sportsmen and women'.

The match will be between Italy's national side and a rest-of-the-world team composed of foreign players chosen from Italian first division teams.

The Vatican press office said the Pope will be present for the start of the match. It is not yet certain that he will stay until the final whistle.

Keen footballer

In his youth, the 80-year-old Pope was a keen sportsman.

The Pope as a young man
A football enthusiast in his youth, the Pope played in goal
Only last Sunday, at the end of a religious ceremony in St Peter's Square, the captain of the Lazio football team in Rome presented the Pope with a Lazio shirt with the number 80 printed on the back.

The day before the match, the Pope will be present at a meeting of international athletes and sports people in the main audience hall inside the Vatican.

Among those present will be some of the gold medallists from the Sydney Olympics and Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

The Vatican insists that the Sports Jubilee will celebrate the values of loyalty, courage and respect for one's opponents.

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