Journalists walk past a giant photo of the Argentine national soccer team with Pope Francis at the team's training ground in Vespasiano, near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. Argentina will play in group F of the Brazil 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Updated: June 13, 2014 1:03PM
VATICAN CITY — He recently renewed his Argentine passport and remains an official card-carrying member of his favorite Buenos Aires football club. But Pope Francis has pledged absolute neutrality for the World Cup.
Francis recalled during an interview published Friday with the Barcelona newspaper “La Vanguardia,” that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had asked him during a February visit to the Vatican to at least be neutral during the competition.
Laughing, Francis said: “The Brazilians asked for neutrality. I’ll keep my word because Brazil and Argentina are always opponents.”
On Thursday, Francis issued a video message pep talk to players and fans alike, urging them to make the World Cup a showcase for teamwork and solidarity and not an exhibition of racism, individualism and greed.
Argentina plays its first match Sunday, against Bosnia-Herzegovina.