06/13/2014 10:23 EDT | Updated 08/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Because Brazil asked: Pope Francis, an Argentine, confirms he'll be neutral during World Cup

VATICAN CITY - He recently renewed his Argentine passport and remains an official card-carrying member of his favourite Buenos Aires football club. But Pope Francis has pledged absolute neutrality for the World Cup.

Francis recalled during an interview published Friday with the Barcelona newspaper "La Vanguardia," that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had asked him during a February visit to the Vatican to at least be neutral during the competition.

Laughing, Francis said: "The Brazilians asked for neutrality. I'll keep my word because Brazil and Argentina are always opponents."

On Thursday, Francis issued a video message pep talk to players and fans alike, urging them to make the World Cup a showcase for teamwork and solidarity and not an exhibition of racism, individualism and greed.

Argentina plays its first match Sunday, against Bosnia-Herzegovina.