March 1, 2006

Pope to make anti-racism call at Italy-Germany game

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will issue a message
against racism in soccer at the World Cup warm-up match between
Italy and Germany on Wednesday night, the Italian football
federation said.

The message will be read out by a local clergyman on the
pitch at the stadium in Florence before kickoff.

It comes a day after Spain's football federation fined Real
Zaragoza 9,000 euros ($10,750) for its fans' racial abuse of
Barcelona's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o and after several
racist and pro-fascist displays by fans and players in Italy.

In November, Marc Zoro, Ivory Coast defender for Serie A
side Messina, picked up the ball and threatened to walk off the
pitch because of racist chants from Inter Milan fans.

Lazio striker Paolo Di Canio has been sanctioned for giving
supporters a straight-arm Nazi-style salute. He has reportedly
said: "I am a fascist, not a racist."

In Italy, it is not uncommon for some fans to make "monkey"
noises when black players from rival teams take the ball.