ROMANS SEND CHALLENGE
From L. G. Walmsley, Our Holy Year Correspondent Current main ambition of Catholic Action's Centre of Italian Sport is to find some British football team willing to play one of their own selected teams.
They are prepared to take on anyone from a schoolboys' team to someone like Glasgow Celtic, for they have every class of player, including internationals.
In taking up the challenge The Holy Father who, according " It is so easy," said Secretary
Saletti. " Your people come over here on pilgrimages and all they have to do is put their football boots and kit in their bags. We look after all the rest. What we would like more than anything else is a representative team of schoolboys under eighteen but well take you on at anything, tennis, athletics or whatever you like."
It may he strange to the British mind to think of a Government Under-Secretary for Sport but that is what Italian Catholic Action is discussing at the moment. They arc organising their sport as they do their politics, with very deadly seriousness. In this they know what they are doing; they are making use of one of this century's mass influences in an effort to turn it to national unity, something which the masses have misunderstood or care little about.
English and Scots started it
Already in existence since 1906 the Federation of Italian Catholic Sports Associations was suppressed in 1927 for Mussolini's reasons. The honour, possibly disputable, of having introduced football into Rome goes to the English and Scots Colleges in the early years of the century when their students, to the dismayed delight of the populace, used to turn out in the gardens of Villa Borghese and later give lessons to the aspiring footballers who have since shown that they were not slow to learn.
The Federation restarted again after the war and is now known as the Centre of Italian Sport, forming a solid part of Catholic Action under the presidency of Dr. Luigi Geckle. thusiastic supporter of the Italian champion cyclist. Bartoli, very often gives audiences to visiting teams who come to play in Rome. Observers of the curious note that. as yet, none of these visiting teams have lost in Rome, a point which has caused some heartburning among the followers of Rome Football Club.
Although 90 per cent. of these clubs of all sizes in the Sports Centre organisation have what Leopold Saletti, the secretary, calls the " football virus," the organisation covers 'altogether twenty-four different kinds of sport front mountaineering to rugby and gliding. So if anyone likes to try, at football, tennis, fencing, athletics or any other kind of sport they think they excel in Secretary Saletti already has the invitation waiting on his desk and is ready, on his own admission, to take over the ex-Mussolini Stadium.