Liverpool’s most famous fan slipping away

As the world watches the health of Pope John Paul II deteriorate this weekend, Liverpool’s goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek will be watching as closely as anyone.

It was in 2003 when Dudek, Poland’s national goalkeeper, heard that he  and Liverpool had a fan in the shape of the Holy Father. He’s probably the most famous fan Liverpool have.

The Pontiff was a goalkeeper himself in his youth, and it seems that this love for football had stayed with him, including becoming a fan of Liverpool as well as Dudek.

Dudek said back then: "I spoke to a couple of guys who are very close to the Pope and they told me that he is always watching our games and that he is always thinking of me when Liverpool play.  I was very surprised by this. They seemed to know everything about football, about me and about Liverpool."

Dudek was actually invited over to see the Pope, real name Karol Wojtyla, at the Vatican prior to an international between Italy and Poland.

At the time Dudek said: "It was a very emotional moment for me. He was a very keen sportsman in his younger days and when he played football he played in goal, so I suppose we have something in common."

Dudek will no doubt be feeling emotional again today., as the Pope’s life slowly comes to an end.

* Italy’s highest sporting authority, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) decided to suspend all weekend sport events on Saturday as a sign of respect for the seriously ill Pope. The decision affects Serie A soccer matches along with other sports. The announcement came as thousands of people filled St. Peter’s Square to keep vigil as the pope neared death while all Italian media devoted full-time coverage and attention to reports from Vatican City.

Coaches of AC Milan and Juventus had called for the suspension of play in view of the Pope’s worsening condition. Former Chelsea star, now captain of Cagliari, Gianfranco Zola said, "It’s fair that the sport is stopped … there are more important things than soccer."

The top three teams Milan,Juventus and Inter were set to play crucial matches on Saturday in advance of their Champions League games next week. Milan and Inter are due to play the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at San Siro on Wednesday, whilst Juventus are scheduled to travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Tuesday night. There was no immediate word on whether these matches would be postponed.