WEINELF, the German soccer team for vintners, have been chosen to play against the national soccer team of the Vatican in June 2019.
This is a very unusual opportunity.
According to Wikipedia, “Due to the fact that only a few hundred people have Vatican citizenship and that they cannot leave their posts for long, the team is seldom able to play friendly matches."
“We are deeply honoured,” said Robert Lönarz, president of WEINELF (“Wine Eleven”), which is headquartered at Hochschule Geisenheim University, Germany's premier training ground for winemakers.
Lönarz, together with Honorary Captain Doctor Franz Josef Jung, made an official request through the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin, seeking to play the Selezione di calcio della Città del Vaticano, the Vatican's team.
"We were very surprised by the positive reply, but we are absolutely overjoyed to play a match against Pope Francis’s soccer team in the Eternal City of Rome," said Lönarz.
Landing the match is only the first step, however, as WEINELF will have significant training to do. The Vatican team consists of the very fit papal Swiss guards and councils, as well as some museum guards, and has previously received training from the world-famous coach, Giovanni Trapattoni.
Also, of course, the Vatican team has God on its side.
If that wasn’t enough, the Vatican team even have a winery sponsor, as in 2018 they signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the Poderi di San Pietro winery.
The Germans are undaunted.
“For us as a European association and soccer team, it means a lot to make this journey,” said Lönarz, who is also president of the union of European national football teams for winemakers e. V. (UENFW).
Since 2002, most of the Vatican City state's matches have been played against the Principality of Monaco. The team of Borussia Mönchengladbach, WEISWEILER ELF, is the only German team ever to have had the opportunity to play against the Vatican to date.
The German team won, 21 to four, so there is hope for WEINELF. They are also hoping to participate in a liturgical celebration and have an audience with Pope Francis, who is known to be an avid soccer fan.