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Bring ‘order and honesty’ back to football, Pope tells Fifa president

Pope Francis with Fifa president Gianni Infantino at a meeting for Scholas Occurrentes (L'Osservatore Romano/ AP)

Pope Francis has urged the president of Fifa to bring “order and honesty” to football’s world governing body.

During a meeting at the Vatican on Sunday, the Pope told Infantino: “Clear paths, put things back in order and honesty. And football is a weapon, in a good way, it serves as an educational and social integration with the kids.”

The Pope added that “with soccer, go forward showing honesty and cleanliness.”

In response, Infantino told Francis: “We want to do just that.”

Fifa has been beset by allegations of widespread corruption for many years. Last summer the US Department of Justice indicted several of the organisation’s top executives and this was followed by long-serving president Sepp Blatter stepping down.

Shortly after he was elected as the new Fifa president in February, Infantino said “Fifa has gone through sad times, moments of crisis”, but he “promised to restore (the organisation’s) image.”

However, since becoming president Infantino has already been embroiled in controversy with Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee and compensation committee, resigning and accusing Infantino of “destroying” significant reforms.

At the Vatican meeting, the Pope joked that he “regretted not being able to collaborate” with Fifa as he “no longer plays” football.

During the meeting, Infantino gave gifts to the Pope including a football shirt bearing the Pontiff’s name and a winners medal from the Champions League final that was won by Real Madrid in Milan the night before.

“We had the final of the Champions League and this is one of the medals from the match. 29 go to Madrid, and one for you,” Infantino said.

Infantino met Pope Francis to promote the Match for Peace organised by the papal foundation Scholas Ocurrentes.

The match will be played in Argentina on July 10 and the proceeds will go to the global educational initiative that works in 82 countries with 400,000 schools and other education institutions. It aims to bring together children from different cultures and religions.

The Scholas Ocurrentes event was also attended by Hollywood stars George Clooney, Salma Hayek and Richard Gere, who were honoured by the Pope for their contribution to the project.