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    Pope Francis Receives German National Football Team

    A file photo of Pope Francis. (Getty Images)

    A file photo of Pope Francis. (Getty Images)

    Vatican City: Pope Francis greeted football world champions Germany in an audience at the Vatican on Monday ahead of a friendly match against Italy.

    Bayern Munich players Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels gave the Pope a Germany jersey signed by the squad and a wall hanging painted by children from a charity set up by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Vatican Radio reported.

    Francis, a keen football fan whose home nation Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany, praised Germany's team spirit.

    "I have often heard it said that your victories are team victories," he said noting the team is referred to as "Die Mannschaft" (the team).

    "Truly competitive sport not only requires a great deal of discipline and personal sacrifice, but also respect for others and team spirit.

    "This carries you to success as 'Die Mannschaft' and at the same time causes you to recognize your responsibility on the football pitch, especially to the young people who often see you as role models."

    The Pope also thanked the team for their support for the "Sternsinger" collection in Catholic parishes in Germany to raise money for children and young people in poor countries around the world, now the world's largest fundraiser by children, for children.