(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday told members of the Spanish Villarreal football club that the team spirit which is so vital in playing a good match is fundamental in life and society as well.
The Pope was receiving some of the Villarreal club players, managers and coaching staff who are in Rome to take on the “AS Roma” team in their second leg of the “Europa League” championship.
To those present he said that football, like others sports, is a mirror of life and society: “when you are on the field you need each other. Each player puts his professional skill and talent to the benefit of a common goal, which is to play well and to win.”
The Pope pointed out that much training is needed to achieve that affinity and said that it is important to invest time and effort in creating a team spirit.
“This is possible if you act in the spirit of fellowship, leaving aside individualism or personal aspirations. If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win” he said.
Pope Francis also spoke of the power of sports to educate and transmit positive values.
He said many people, especially young people, watch and admire football players who have the responsibility to provide a good model and highlight the values of football, which are “companionship, personal effort, the beauty of the game, team play”.
The Pope also said one of the traits of a good athlete is gratitude: “you must remember the many people who have helped you and without whom you would not be here”.
These include, he said, those with whom you played as children, your first teammates, coaches, assistants, and also your fans that encourage you in every game with their presence.
He said these memories are important and help one not to feel superior but to always be aware that one is only part of a great team that goes back a long time.
“Feeling this way helps us grow as people, because our ‘game’ is not only ours, but also that of others, who are somehow part of our lives” he said.
Pope Francis is known to be a football fan himself and he concluded his audience encouraging the athletes to keep playing and to keep giving the best of themselves so that others can enjoy those beautiful moments.