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  • Vatican Athletics is currently composed of some 60 members which include migrants, nuns, priests, Swiss Guards and other workers.

    Vatican Athletics is currently composed of some 60 members which include migrants, nuns, priests, Swiss Guards and other workers. | Photo: EFE

Published 12 January 2019

Two Muslim asylum-seekers - Jallow Buba, a 20-year-old Gambian and Anszou Cisse, a 19-year-old Senegalese - who are registered as honorary members are among the Vatican's team.

The Vatican has finalized an agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) which will allow a newly formed local athletics team to compete in international competitions.

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The athletics organization is the first sports body in the Holy See, though football and cricket teams exist. The team's first official event will be the La Corsa di Miguel - a 10-kilometer race in Rome, on January, 20. The race honors Argentine distance runner Miguel Sanchez, one of tens of thousands of people who disappeared during the country’s dictatorship Dirty War.

"The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games," Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, president of Vatican Athletics, said, adding that the Olympic Games were "the dream, but not in the short term."

Vatican Athletics is currently composed of some 60 members which include nuns, priests, Swiss Guards and other workers. Members of the athletics team include two Muslim asylum-seekers - Jallow Buba, a 20-year-old Gambian and Anszou Cisse, a 19-year-old Senegalese - who are registered as honorary members.

The clergyman further explained that another more realistic short-term goal would be to participate in the Mediterranean Games.

The agreement with CONI will allow the team to take part in national and internationally sanctioned events as well as have access to Italian national coaching and medical facilities.

"It will be necessary to affiliate with other federations," CONI president Giovanni Malago disclosed to Vatican News. "I'm sure this will happen, today we have started a courageous and winning startup." 

The team ultimately aims to gain membership to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Michela Ciprietti, a team member and Vatican pharmacist, said the current aim of the team is to "promote culture and running and launch the message of solidarity and the fight against racism and violence of all types."

The Vatican also plans to launch a similarly-organized team for disabled athletes, affiliated to the Italian Paralympic Committee.

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