It seems as though the Italian bishops, despite their love of soccer, have not purchased the Italian club AC Ancona, as was previously reported. However, the new owners of the team have forged a relationship with Centro Sportivo Italiano (CSI) to bring more Catholic values to the club.
Yesterday afternoon, the press secretary for the Vatican, Fr. Federico Lombardi, told the press that neither the Vatican nor the Italian Bishop’s Conference has purchased AC Ancona or taken responsibility for it.
"The Vatican and the Italian Episcopal Conference have nothing to do with this project," declared Fr. Lombardi. "There are initiatives which have positive and commendable aims and, if the declared intentions can be effectively achieved, this is certainly a good thing," he said adding, however, that this does not mean that this is an initiative of the Vatican or of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
Perhaps the only connection between the Vatican and the soccer club is that the members of the team will be present at tomorrow’s general audience, where they will present Pope Benedict with a #16 AC Ancona jersey.
The team’s new owner, Sergio Schiavoni and his son Giampiero, the club's CEO, have both explained that their team will be unlike any other in the Italian soccer leagues.
The agreement with the CSI, an organization of lay Catholics, brings with it a commitment by both the club and the players to do good works "in remission of sins on the field," according to organization’s ethics code. The team will also contribute to social work in Italy and Africa.
The new agreement with CSI is an interesting twist since Ancona’s fans have historically come from the political left-wing, regularly waving Che Guevara banners and campaigning against neo-Fascists, according to ANSA news agency.
A representative for the team’s fan club said they welcomed any "worthwhile social initiatives" but did not expected to be "muzzled" by the club's new Catholic turn.
"We have ourselves fought for over 25 years to keep violence out of grounds and having to stick to an overt religious line would be an unacceptable infringement of our freedom of expression," the fan club said.