(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Italian football (soccer) players to not just be champions in their sport but above all champions in their lives, by displaying key moral values such as brotherhood, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness. His remarks came during an audience at the Vatican with top representatives of Italy’s Seria A Football League as well as players from the Juventus and AC Milan teams. The two Seria A teams play each other at the weekend in the final of the Italian cup (Coppa Italia) in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
A keen football fan himself, Pope Francis reminded the players, that as role models for many fans, especially the young, their behaviour should always reflect “the authentic values of sport.” He said the success of a team depends on a fusion of human and moral virtues such as “harmony, loyalty, friendship, dialogue and solidarity.” By being a witness of those moral virtues, he continued, you can emphasize even more the real purpose of the world of sport that is “sometimes marred by negative episodes.”
The Pope reminded the players that they are not just footballers but first and foremost a human being, each with their own conscience, and urged them to always show “brotherhood, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness.” “Be champions in sport but above all champions in your life,” he stressed.
Pope Francis concluded by encouraging the players to always highlight whatever is “truly good and beautiful” and to not be afraid to share and display with their fans “the moral and religious principles” on which they wish to base their life.