(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with members of the Italian and Argentinian national
football squads on Tuesday morning. They are in Rome for a Wednesday night friendly
that has been organised in honour of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Speaking in both Italian and Spanish, the Holy Father expressed his hope that the match would truly be a friendly one. He reminded the players that they are role models for many football fans, encouraged them to take that responsibility seriously. He asked them to foster the “beauty, generosity, and camaraderie” that sport can produce – and called for even professional athletes to recover the idea of being an amateur, of recovering the initial vocation of the athlete. Doing so builds up the common good through those values.
Pope Francis also warned about letting sport become simply a big business. He called on managers to “Do your work in such a way that the sporting character will not be lost.”
Turning to Spanish, the Pope spoke about his memories of going to football matches with his family as a young boy in Buenos Aires – and spoke fondly about his memories of the Gasómetro Stadium in Buenos Aires, and the winning season of 1946. He called on players to “live your sport as a gift from God, an opportunity not only to improve your talents, but also a responsibility. And he returned to the idea that athletes are examples and role models, encouraging them to set an example of loyalty, respect, and selflessness. “I have confidence,” he said, “in all the good you can do, especially among young people.”
Pope Francis ended his remarks by praying that the athletes will continue to be able to pursue the “noble vocation” of sport – and he asked them to pray for him, too, “that in the playing field that the Lord has placed me, I can play the game honestly and courageously, for the good of all.
Listen to Christopher Wells report:
Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis’ remarks:
Dear friends, queridos amigos,
We’ll do this have in Italian, half in Spanish: is that ok?
I thank you for this visit, on the occasion of the “friendly” match between Italy and Argentina’s national football squads. Really, it would be a little difficult for me to be a fan, but fortunately it’s a “friendly” . . . and I recommend that it really be just that.
Thank you to the managers of the Italian Football Federation and the Argentinian Federation. I greet the athletes of both national squads.
Dear players, you are very popular: the people watch you both on and off the field. This is a social responsibility! Let me explain: In the game, when you are on the field, you find beauty, generosity, camaraderie. If a game is missing this, it loses its force, even if the team wins. There is no place for individualism; everything is directed to the team. Perhaps these three things—beauty, generosity, and camaraderie—ought to be recovered in a sporting term that should never be abandoned: “amateur”. It’s true that the organization of national and international sides professionalised sport — and it has to be that way — but this professional dimension should never lay aside the initial vocation of an athlete or a team: being an amateur. When an athlete, even as a “pro,” cultivates this “amateur” dimension, he is contributing to the good of society, he is building up the common good through the values of generosity, camaraderie, and beauty.
And this leads you to think that, before being champions you are human beings, human persons, with your strengths and your flaws, with your hearts and your ideas, your aspirations and your problems. And then, even if you are personalities, you remain persons, in sport and in life – human persons, bearers of humanity.
To you managers, I want to encourage you in your work. Sport is important, but it must be true sport! Football, like other disciplines, has become a big business! Do your work in such a way that the sporting character is not lost. You too should promote this “amateur” attitude, that, for one thing, will eliminate the danger of discrimination. When teams go along this road, the stadium is enriched in a human way, violence disappears, that problem we all have, making violence disappear, and we will again see families in the stands.
[In Spanish] I remember as boys going with the family to the Gasómetro Stadium. We went with the family: father, mother and children. We went home happy, especially during the season of ’46! Let’s see if any of you have the courage to score a goal like Pontoni! I greet in a special way the Argentine managers and players. Thank you for this visit, which is a great pleasure for me. I ask you to that you live your sport as a gift from God, an opportunity not only to bring your talents to fruition, but also as a responsibility. Dear players, I want especially to remind you that the way you behave, both on the field and off it, in life, is an example. Last Sunday I spoke by telephone with some young people in a group that wanted to greet me, and I spent half an hour with them. And clearly the great theme for this group was the game the next day. They named many of you, and said “I like this one for one thing, and this one for something else.” You are an example, a point of reference. The good you do makes an impression. You do good with your conduct, in your game, with your strengths. People look to you. Take the opportunity to do good. Even if you don’t realize it, you are a model, for good or ill, for so many people who look up to you. So be aware of this, and set an example of loyalty, respect and selflessness. You are also architects of understanding and social peace, which we need so much. You are role models for so many young people, and models of values embodied in life. I have confidence in all the good you can do among the young people.
Dear friends, I pray that you will be able to pursue the noble vocation of sport. I ask the Lord to bless you, and the Virgin Mary to guard you. And I ask you, please, to pray for me, that I too, in the ‘field’ in which the Lord has placed me, can play the game honestly and courageously for the good of all. Thank you!