Vatican City, the seat of the Catholic Church, is, in every way, its own country. Though surrounded on all sides by the modern city of Rome, the Holy See was made its own country in 1929, according to Vatican Tips, in order to keep the machinations of the Italian government and those of the Church separated from one another. Now, almost a century later, the Vatican checks off all of the boxes that make a section of land, and the people who live on it, a country: It has its own military (the Swiss Guard, all 130 of them, per Vatican News), and its own head of state (Pope Francis). This despite having a population of only around 900 residents, and a land area of 108 acres.
Another way in which Vatican City is functionally its own country is that it has its own sports leagues. We won’t spoil which sport, exactly, but you can probably guess based on the context. The clues: the country is in the heart of Europe, its army is composed of Swiss men (Switzerland also being a part of Europe), and its most famous resident is South American (Argentine, to be specific). Still don’t know? Read on.
Vatican City is soccer-crazy
It goes without saying that Europe is all about soccer, and Vatican City, being a European country, is no exception. According to FIFA, residents of the city-state having been kicking the ball around within its walls for hundreds of years, and here in 2021, it’s been codified into leagues, tournaments, and even two international teams.
Pope Francis is reported to be a big fan of the sport, says Sports Illustrated. And to be fair, the Vatican’s soccer teams aren’t composed entirely of residents of the country; relatives of the residents help fill out the rosters. Nevertheless, they compete against each other. There’s even a national cup, in a manner of speaking, and the teams compete against each other for the trophy. Further, the country has a national team, complete with its own rivalry against another European micro-state (Monaco), against which it has yet to win a game. The Vatican’s women’s team recently took the field against a Roman team, and promptly lost, 10-0.
The Vatican may be the only country in the world where its soccer players have to travel internationally just to practice. The Holy See is thin on green spaces, but fortunately there are ample Roman parks, complete with soccer fields, just a short distance away.
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