HOUSTON — Fans who arrived early at NRG Stadium for Super Bowl LI were treated to a video message by someone who probably knows a lot more about futbol than football: Pope Francis.

“By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest, and in a healthy way we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules,” the pontiff said in the video that also was released on YouTube by the Vatican. “May this year’s Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world.”

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Pope Francis has issued such proclamations for other sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, but this was his first such message about a purely American sporting event.

He did not share his pick for the game, against the spread or otherwise.