First, there was the "Hand of God" goal that propelled Argentina to the 1986 World Cup. Now, there's the voice of Vatican Radio, featuring cardinals commentating on Italian soccer.

"I understand that Italy is a Catholic country, but now we've got cardinals speaking out?" Italy national team coach Marcello Lippi said. "I'm having a hard time understanding this."

Still, the show -- "Not Only Sports" -- has been quite a hit in its first three weeks. The local show airs Mondays on 105 Live, a Rome area station started four years ago to give the Vatican a new, younger voice. The show has already been picked up by RAI state radio and is being rebroadcast nationally.

"It's a man of God talking sports, an earthly pastime, talking the people's language. Sports is something that the people are interested in," said Sean-Patrick Lovett, director of 105 Live. "The church is not just about sex scandals and papal decrees."

The first guest was 88-year-old Fiorenzo Angelini, who condemned the way players are selected for the Italian national team. "There are pressures and recommendations," Angelini said. "The fact that playing soccer has now become an economic reality creates a consideration where being or not being on the national team can increase or decrease the commercial worth of an athlete, which is very sad."

The show's host and producer, Luca Collodi, hopes to feature a different cardinal each week.

"Last year we had legendary broadcaster Nando Martellini," Collodi said, referring to the RAI commentator. "Unfortunately, he died and we had to come up with something new for this season."

Joining Angelini on Monday was Tarcisio Bertone, the archbishop of Genoa, known for offering play-by-play for his favorite team, Juventus.

-- From News Services


88-year-old cardinal was a recent guest on "Not Only Sports" on Vatican Radio in Italy