Pope Francis says "Sport is a great opportunity to learn to give the best of yourself, with sacrifice..." Full Text


Paul VI Hall
Friday, 24 May 2019

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I greet you all and thank the President for his kind words. I must now read a five-page speech. Do you say ... Yes or no? Who is it because I don't read it and give this to the President: who is it for no? ... Now, who is it for the yes? ... Listen, it's five pages, you have to be quiet ... Come on.

Seeing you - when I heard that cry [la ola], as if I had marked - it reminds me of what he loved to repeat to his educators Saint John Bosco, the inventor of the speakers: "Do you want the boys? Throw in a balloon and before you touch the ground you will see how many will have come close! ". We can say that behind a rolling ball there is almost always a boy with his dreams and his aspirations, his body and his soul. In a sporting activity not only the muscles are involved but the whole personality of a boy, in all its dimensions, even the deepest ones. In fact, it is said of someone who is working hard, "is giving the soul". All involved in that work, in that sport.

Sport is a great opportunity to learn to give the best of yourself, with sacrifice and commitment, but above all not alone. Feel good this: sport, not alone. We live in a time when, thanks to the massive presence of new technologies, it is easy to isolate oneself, create virtual bonds with many but at a distance. Ties, but alone. The great thing about playing with a ball is being able to do it together with others, passing it in the middle of a field, learning to build game actions, joining together as a team ... The ball becomes a means to invite real people to share friendship, to to find oneself in a space, to look at oneself, to challenge oneself to put one's skills to the test. Dear friends: football is a team game, you can't have fun alone! And if it is lived like this, it can really do good also to the head and the heart in a society that exasperates the subjectivism, that is the centrality of the own self, almost like an absolute principle. Football is a team game, and this is good for all of us.

Many define football as "the most beautiful game in the world". I think the same, [applause] but it is a personal opinion. But we often hear people say: "football is no longer a game!" Unfortunately, we are witnessing phenomena that affect its beauty, even in youth football, on the pitch or on the sideline. For example, you see certain parents turning into ultras fans, or managers, coaches ...

I like to emphasize that your Federation is called the Italian Federation ... Football? No: Football Game: there is precisely the word "game". But sometimes this word is forgotten, and perhaps replaced - secretly - with less coherent ones, if not entirely contrary to the purposes. Instead it is a game and must remain so! Football is a game: we say it together? Football is a game [they all repeat it] Here it is. Don't forget this: football is a game. One day a journalist asked a theologian how one could explain happiness to a child. It is not easy to explain happiness to a child. The theologian replied: "I wouldn't explain it, I would give him a ball to play." This is happiness.

Playing makes you happy because you can express your freedom, compete in a fun way, you live in a free time simply ... why? Why? ... Because you like it, you like to play football, you run after a dream but without necessarily becoming a champion. The Charter of Children's Rights to Sport also reaffirms the right of every child to "not be a champion" (Article 10). It is a right to play, and I have the right not to become a champion, but I have the happiness of playing.

Dear parents, I urge you to pass on this mentality to your children: play, gratuitousness, sociability ... To encourage them in difficult moments, especially after a defeat ... And to help them understand that the bench is not a humiliation, but a opportunity to grow and an opportunity for someone else. That they always have the taste to give their best, because beyond the game there is the life that awaits them.
In this educational task, parents, I invite you to seek an alliance with the sports society of your children, especially with the coaches. Training is a sort of accompaniment, like driving towards something more and better. You train yourself to improve your physical qualities, techniques so as to be able to face challenges. In this adventure, you coaches have an important role, because you find yourself to be authoritative reference points for the kids you train: with you they spend a lot of time, in an activity that they like and gratifies them, and you are figures " others "compared to parents. Everything you say and do, the way you say and do it, becomes a lesson for your athletes, that is, it will leave an indelible mark on their life, for good or for bad.

Someone said that he tiptoed into the field to avoid trampling the sacred dreams of the boys. I ask you not to turn your children's dreams into easy illusions destined to clash soon with the limits of reality; not to oppress their lives with forms of blackmail that block their freedom and imagination; not to teach shortcuts that only lead to getting lost in the labyrinth of life. Instead, you can always be complicit in the smile of your athletes! This is beautiful: to be an accomplice to the smile of our athletes.

One last word - I am about to finish, rest assured - I want to address a last word to the great champions of football, to which these young athletes are inspired. Do not forget where you started from: that suburban camp, that oratory, that small company ... I wish you always to feel gratitude for your history of sacrifices, victories and defeats. And to also feel the educational responsibility, to be implemented through a coherence of life and solidarity with the weakest, to encourage the youngest to grow up inside, and maybe even champions in life. Great in life: this is the victory of all of us, it is the victory of you who play soccer. And to managers: please always keep the "amateurship", which is a spirit ... Let the beauty of football not end in a do ut des of financial affairs.

Thank you very much! I bless you all. And please I ask you to pray for me. Thank you.

Now I will give the blessing. [Blessing]

And thanks!

FULL TEXT + Image Share from Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation