Pope Francis to soccer players: ‘The most beautiful victories are those you win as a team’

MAIN190221___5.jpg Pope Francis meets a delegation from the Italian soccer club Sampdoria Feb. 19, 2021. Credit: Vatican Media.

Pope Francis said on Friday that participation in sports can help people to grow in holiness, stressing the importance of teamwork.

In a Feb. 19 meeting with an Italian soccer team, the pope said that "sports, and also soccer, are a path of life, of maturity, and of holiness."

The pope received the U.C. Sampdoria team from Genoa for an audience at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. The team presented the pope with a framed custom jersey embossed with the name "Papa Francesco."

"The most beautiful victories are those you win as a team," Pope Francis told the soccer players.

"At home, if a footballer plays only for himself, we say 'he eats the ball,' he takes the ball for himself and does not look at the others. No. Always as a team."

Pope Francis is a well-known soccer fan. His favorite team is San Lorenzo de Almagro in his native Argentina.

Earlier this year, the pope received a visit from the northern Italian soccer club Spezia after they beat A.S. Roma, eliminating them from the Coppa Italia, the country's annual cup competition.

Pope Francis said at the meeting on Jan. 20: "In Argentina, we dance the tango," pointing out that the music is based on "two-by-four," or two-quarter time.

Referring to their result against Roma, he added: "Today you are 4 to 2, and that's good. Congratulations and keep going!"

A few days later, Lorenzo Pellegrini, the captain of the A.S. Roma team,  and his family came to St. Peter's Basilica for the Sunday of the Word of God Mass.

Pellegrini had led Rome to victory the day before in a 4-3 revenge victory over Spezia. 

Sampdoria is scheduled to play against the other major Roman soccer team, Lazio, this weekend in Rome's Olympic Stadium.

The Vatican recently published a book collecting Pope Francis' speeches to athletes of all kinds.

"Mettersi in Gioco: Pensieri sullo Sport" ("Put Yourself in the Game: Thoughts on Sports"), edited by the Vatican's publishing house and the dicastery for Communications, includes the testimonies of three professional athletes.

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The book also contains Pope Francis' speech at a 2016 Vatican conference on sports in which he said: "Sport is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people's lives."

"As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, she is working in the world of sport to bring the joy of the Gospel, the inclusive and unconditional love of God for all human beings."

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