The Vatican has launched its first women’s football team.
More than half the new team are female staff working in the Vatican along with employees' wives and daughters.
The team will take on AS Roma’s women’s team, on 26 May, before competing in an international match in Vienna later in June as part of a tournament being organised by the Vatican’s children’s hospital, Bambino Gesù.
Pope Francis has reportedly given his blessing to the plans.
“Pope Francis has given considerable impulse to women within the Vatican, therefore this initiative is an extension of that,” Danilo Zennaro, a representative of the association that organises the Vatican’s football activities, told The Guardian.
“We’ve had a men’s team for 48 years so it was only right to offer the possibility to women who work within the Vatican to practise the sport, Zennaro said.
“Even if they lose 30-0, this doesn’t matter,” he continued.
“What matters is that these women get the opportunity to know professional players. Win or lose, it’s also about creating connections and friendships.”
Zennaro added that although so far all the team are lay women, he is open to women religious joining the team. All that matters is that they are employees of the Vatican, he said.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, has welcomed the upcoming match in Vienna, Zennaro told AFP on 13 May.
The Vatican City men’s national football team has played 10 “official” games to date, winning one, losing six and drawing three.
Vatican City’s victory came against Swiss side SV Vollmond in 2006.