Put yourself in the Game

13 August 2021
As to the Head of the Catholic Church sport is one of the universal languages capable of bridging social, religious, physical and cultural diversities. It can unite people, rendering them participants in the same game of victories and defeats.

Superstars meet Pope Francis

The Head of the Catholic Church often makes statements on sports, underlying their evangelistic and educational potential. He asks the athletes not to forget about their social responsibilities, and above all, to be humans before becoming champions. Many of the best-known and most successful athletes have met Pope Francis in the recent years. Just to mention the members of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters, the Juventus football team, as well as Messi and Buffon, the brilliant football players of the past decade. Moreover, this list can be enriched with our great swimmers, including amongst others, Richárd Bohus, Boglárka Kapás, Tamás Kenderesi, Dávid and Evelyn Verrasztó, who could have already met the Holy Father in person.

In the same boat to a change of era

Pope Francis is well known for his passion for sports, and especially for football. The Pontiff is a fan of the San Lorenzo de Almagro football team. The Holy Father regularly shared his thoughts on sport, so as he did concerning the recent Olympic Games, pointing out that on account of the coronavirus pandemic, current Games were full of contradictions. However, “these Olympics may be a perfect occasion to outline even stronger the real meaning and value of the five-ring games, marking the spirit of fraternity and harmony amongst people. It is a message that is certainly much needed today, as we all find ourselves in the same boat, facing an unexpected change of era with still unpredictable consequences.”- emphasized the Pontiff.

“Winners do not know what they are missing out on”

Pope Francis has repeatedly underlined the educational potential of sports for young people. The Pontiff is of the belief that the greatness of a person is far more transparent when he or she falls both in sport and in life. In his interview given to the Gazzetta dello Sport Italian daily newspaper he remarked: “Victory gives you a thrill that is difficult to describe, but there is also something fantastic about the defeat. Wonderful victories can be born from certain defeats, since the mistake that evokes the desire for victory has been identified. It can be said: the winners do not know what they are missing out on.”

The price

The Holy Father follows many sporting events, however, it is also well known that he is a passionate fan of football. This summer he was very much pleased by the news that the 2021 European Football Championship has been ended by the victory of Italy, while the Copa America champion became Argentina. In this regard the Pontiff pointed out that every triumph is preceded by great efforts and sacrifices, at the same time being a lesson for life.

A San Lorenzo fan

Pope Francis’ favourite soccer club is the San Lorenzo de Almagro football team, while as for the teams of the Old Continent, he goes for the Barcelona. His favoured Argentinian team was established by Father Lorenzo Massa in 1908. Pope Francis greeted his beloved football champions in December 2013. The team was welcomed in the Vatican, where they were presenting their championship trophy to Pope Francis. The Pontiff gave them an image of Our Lady.

A book on sport to athletes

The Pontiff’s collected thoughts, essays and speeches on sport and its educational potential have been edited into a book. “Put yourself in the Game: Thoughts on Sports” is a 124-page volume published by the Vatican, and also includes testimonies from athletes, like Franceso Totti, Italian soccer player; Tegla Loroupe, the former Kenya marathoner; and Alex Zanardi, the Formula One racing driver who has turned Paralympian.


Pope Francis pays special attention to Alex Zanardi’s career. The former professional Formula One racing driver suffered a severe motor race accident in 2001 that resulted in the amputation of his legs. Years later he was back again in the sports, continuing his career in hand-cycling. In the 2012 and 2014 Paralympic Games Zanardi won 4 gold and 2 silver medals. At one of the road races for Paralympic athletes he was again involved in a serious accident crashing a truck. He underwent several surgeries and was kept in an artificial coma. Pope Francis wrote him a letter, expressing his thanks for the exemplary strength and determination Zanardi had shown. “Your life story is an example of how to restart again and again after a sudden halt. Through sport you have demonstrated how to live life as a protagonist, making disability a lesson in humanity.”

The Catholic Church and the sport

In his opening speech at the 2016 Vatican conference on sport, Pope Francis emphasized: “Sport is an extremely valuable human activity that is 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.”

Embarrassed stars

Pope Francis greeted the Italian and Argentinian football teams as well in the Vatican. Members of both teams met the Holy Father prior to their friendly match. It was more than visible that the footballers were very much moved by the Pontiff’s personality. The Head of the Catholic Church reminded the members of the national teams that given their status as well-known and popular players they did have a social responsibility. “Above all, be humans before becoming champions.” – said the Pope, adding that football has become a big business, and we should work to prevent it losing its character as a sport. Even a professional footballer has to keep the attitude of an amateur, since “he does a good to the society and builds the common good.” – noted the Holy Father. “Pray for me that on the path of God I too can play an honest and courageous match for the good of all of us.” – asked Pope Frances from the champions.

Source and Photo: Vatican News, Magyar Kurír, Nemzeti Sport, pinterest