Italian referee leaves professional basketball to become missionary

At 28 years of age, Simone Strozzi had a successful career as a referee for Series A Italian Basketball, the most competitive in the country.  However his true passion lies off the court and after a long wait he will finally be able to pursue it: he has left the sport to become a missionary priest.

Strozzi refereed his last game on Sunday, at the end of which both teams presented him with basketballs autographed by all the players.  “It was a surprise,” he said.

”I want to place my life into the hands of Jesus Christ.  This is his will for me,” said Strozzi, who has been a referee in Series A Basketball since 2001 and will now join the Congregation of St. Francis Xavier to begin his missionary formation.

According to the young referee, this decision is in response to a vocation he discovered as a child:  “Already at 13 years of age I asked my mother to let me follow this path.  But I have humble origins and I am the youngest of four children.  The silent look on my mother’s face told me I should first help out at home.”

“My brothers wanted to get married and I had to help support the family.  Therefore I studied and obtained my degree.  Later I entered law school, from which I only need to pass 11 more tests to graduate.  I found work, and with part of the money I earned I have helped my family to buy a home and to save a little bit of money,” he added.

During his formation, Strozzi will study for four years and once ordained, he will be sent to one of the congregation’s missions.  His dream is to serve in Africa.

Referring to his experience in basketball, Strozzi says he never was “a great athlete” but “being a referee has allowed me to help others and to provide guidance to people.”

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