BY FREDDY GRAY
THE VATICAN has praised a footballer for asking to be paid as little as possible.
While some of his teammates at AS Roma football club earn more than a £100,000 every week, Damiano Tommasi — a practising Catholic and a former altar boy — has requested a salary of just £1,013 a month.
The hard-working rightsided midfield international, said the wage, the minimum allowed by the Italian football association, was more than enough for him, adding that he still earned more than most Italians.
L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See, said in an editorial that Mr Tommasi’s “unusual decision” was a fine example “in a world where others earn hundreds of thousands of euros and in which those who already earn millions ask excessive amounts to renew their contracts”.
Its comment has been understood as a pointed criticism of another Roma star, Antonio Cassano, who is reportedly refusing to sign another contract unless the club give him more money “Damiano has always thought that a famous footballer has a responsibility as an example to young people,” the editorial said. “He has always modelled his behaviour with this in mind.” Mr Tommasi, 31, said that he simply wanted to return to playing football at the highest level and his bank balance was not the most important part of his life.
He spent most of last season on the treatment table after he damaged his knee in a friendly match against Stoke in the summer of 2004.
But he has battled back and last month made his first appearance of the season for Roma, coming on as a substitute against Ascoli. His future remains uncertain, however, as doubts remain as to his level of fitness.
Mr Tommasi is well known for charitable works and his opposition to racism. He arranges for the fines paid by errant Roma players to go to good causes; has helped raise money to free 200 children from guerrillas in Sierra Leone; and travelled to the Balkans to promote sports centres as part of the peace process.
“Kids see us as idols and we have to give a good example,” he said in a recent interview. “I do a job I love and I get a lot of money for doing it. This is a joy but also a big responsibility.” Internet sites devoted to AS Roma have been full of praise for Mr Tommasi’s gesture.