ROME: FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali of Jordan has been discussing his vision for world football with a very special fan, Pope Francis, at The Vatican.
In the private meeting the Pope – a declared supporter of Argentinian club San Lorenzo – and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein discussed various issues, challenges and opportunities regarding development of football around the world.
They also discussed ways in which sport and football can help to promote peace and social responsibility. His Holiness and Prince Ali shared ideas and found much common ground on a subject that is close to both of their hearts.
Prince Ali is one of three candidates – along with Dutch federation president Michael Van Praag and Portugal’s former World Player of the Year Luis Figo – seeking to oust Swiss incumbent Sepp Blatter in the election at the world football federation’s congress on May 29.
Ahead of the opening match of the last FIFA World Cup, Pope Francis recorded a video message in which he called football, “a game and at the same time an opportunity for dialogue, understanding and reciprocal human enrichment”.
Last year Pope Francis organised a special interfaith charity football match to promote peace, in which he welcomed past and present greats of the football world for the high-profile game at the Vatican.
Expanding on his own vision, a statement on behalf of Prince Ali said: “Since becoming president of the Jordan Football Association in 1999, Prince Ali has worked to promote unity and develop the sport throughout the region, with a particular focus on youth football development and women’s football.”
Prince Ali said: “I have been greatly inspired by Pope Francis’s work to use sport to build bridges between people of differing faiths and cultures.
“Pope Francis is a true innovator in this regard; it was a great honour to meet with him not only in his capacity as the leader of one of the largest faiths in the world, but also in his capacity as a much-admired champion for peace, tolerance and inter-faith dialogue and understanding.
“Our discussions were very fruitful and we share a common vision of using sport as a force for good in the world.”