Pope Francis remembers meetings with soccer player Diego Maradona and prays for him, Matteo Bruni, head of the Holy See’s press service, told reporters.

The 1986 World Champion Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60. It became known to the media that the athlete had previously undergone brain surgery.

“The Pope has been informed of the death of Diego Maradona. He fondly remembers the meetings of these years and remembers him in prayer,” the Vatican official said. Bruni also noted that the Pontiff began to pray for Maradona as soon as he learned about his health.

Pope Francis, who has a reputation as a passionate football fan, has met Maradona and other world football stars more than once. In August 2013, during an audience at the Vatican for players of Argentina and Italy’s national teams, the Pontiff called on famous athletes to “consider sport as a gift from God.”

In October 2016, the Olympic stadium in Rome hosted the “World Match” – a friendly meeting attended by many outstanding masters of football, including Maradona. The idea for this match, which was held under the motto “Together for peace,” belonged to Pope Francis. All funds raised as a result of this action were transferred to humanitarian purposes.