Jim Harbaugh scolded during Rome trip that includes refugees, paintball, and the Pope

ROME (AP) — Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines are team-building their way through Rome.

On their fourth day in Italy, the football team went on Wednesday to the pope’s weekly audience. They have also:

  • Attempted to teach African refugees to play American football.
  • Gotten reprimanded for throwing a football in a shopping mall.
  • Picnicked and kayaked at Lake Albano.
  • Visited the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Piazza Navona.
  • Played paintball.
  • Thrown coins into the Trevi Fountain.

The Wolverines will close the official part of the trip with three practices. After that, they are free to travel on their own in Europe or return home to work out and take classes.

Coach Harbaugh brought his family along for the trip: wife, kids and parents Jack and Jackie. He and his wife, Sarah, planned to have the youngest of their seven children, 15-month-old John, baptized during the visit, and 8-year-old daughter Addie plans on taking her first communion.

But Harbaugh’s family extends beyond blood, and football keeps popping up.

At the Trevi Fountain, for instance, the coach made an unconventional wish. Standing with his back to the fountain, as is customary, Harbaugh pulled three coins from his pocket and tossed them into the water. In Roman culture, three coins ensure a happy, lifelong marriage. Harbaugh put some American culture into his throw: “I wished for a championship,” he said. “The highest one.”

On Monday, tossing a football got Harbaugh in trouble with security guards at the Alberto Sordi Gallery, which at least is not a museum but a shopping arcade.

Private security guards warn Michigan football team coach Jim Harbaugh no to play inside the gallery, during a visit of the team to the Alberto Sordi Gallery in central Rome, Monday, April 24, 2017. Michigan’s football team arrived in Rome this weekend and kicked off the unique trip by meeting with refugees before going to the Vatican for a Papal address and practicing a few times. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

On Sunday, the team’s first day in Rome, they visited the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, at St. Paul’s Within The Walls Episcopal Church. Players handed out more than 50 Jordan-brand backpacks, filled with Michigan gear, to the refugees in the park, many of whom are from Nigeria.

“(A refugee) I met said he came here with one shirt on his back, a pair of shorts and some shoes that didn’t fit,” Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said. “A lot of us take that for granted. We’re here in Jordan jumpsuits with an American and Italy flag on them. It kind of puts all this in perspective a little bit.”

Speight, Jim Harbaugh and Jack Harbaugh were among those giving impromptu ballplaying lessons to the refugees. In a rare moment, the coach found himself at a loss for words, when one refugee asked why it’s called “football,” given that players barely use their feet.

Associated Press
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