.- The president of the John Paul II Foundation for Sports, Eddio Constantini, has severely criticized the president of the International Soccer Association Board (FIFA), Joseph Blatter, for seeking to prohibit religious speech during matches. Blatter's action came after the Brazilian team huddled for a prayer at the conclusion of the Confederations Cup.
Constantini explained that “Blatter and the soccer federation Denmark are mistaken, it is an error to purge sports of those ethical values that the Christian faith and the Catholic Church have defended for centuries.”
His statements came in response to comments by the FIFA president about the Brazilian players huddling for prayer after their victory over the United States. He called their gesture “a danger” and said there was “no room for religion in soccer.” Blatter has also promised he would prohibit any kind of religious expression during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Constantini said the comments by Blatter were not new and pointed to his “ultimatum” to the Brazilian team for a similar gesture after the 2002 world championships. “I would argue that it is precisely the gradual abandoning of religious and ethical values that has been the cause of the moral degradation that is affecting soccer and sports in general,” he added.
“Only a revolution from below that is capable of training wholesome athletes and individuals will be able to restore the authentic meaning to sports that is under threat from violence, drugs, racism and money,” Constantini stated.
The John Paul II Foundation for Sports was launched in July of 2008. Among its objectives is the organization of a triennial program of national and international sporting events focused on promote human dignity, especially among young people.
On that occasion Constantini said it was not coincidental that the launching of the Foundation coincided with the opening of the Pauline Year. “In his letters St. Paul often refers to the Christian life as a sports race which at the end will be awarded with an imperishable crown.”