Be a champion on the field, but above all, be a champ in life, Pope Francis told professional footballers set to compete in the Italian Cup final.
“Always glorify that which is truly good and beautiful through a candid witness of the values that must characterise authentic sport. And do not be afraid to let the world of your fans know, with serenity and poise, the moral and religious principles you want to inspire your life,” he said.
The pope made his remarks during a special audience with the owners, coaches, staff and players of Italy’s AC Milan and Juventus squads, which face off today in Rome’s Olympic Stadium. Juventus is vying for its second consecutive Italian Cup and annual league title.
Pope Francis — a football fan himself — told his audience how much he appreciated their professional talents and “the beautiful traditions that distinguish your sports clubs and the world of soccer in general.”
He reminded the star players how many fans, especially young people, admired them. “Therefore, you are called to act in a way that they will always see in you the human qualities of an athlete dedicated to displaying the authentic values of sport.”
A team’s success, in fact, depends on a whole gamut of “human virtues: harmony, loyalty, the ability to make friends and to dialogue, solidarity. They are spiritual values that become sport values,” he said.
By practicing these moral values, he said, athletes can highlight the true purpose of sports, which is “sometimes marked by negative events, too.”
It comes down to remembering that besides being a soccer player, they are always a human being first, the pope said. They are people with limitations and virtues, “but above all with a conscience that I hope will always be enlightened by a relationship with God, too.”
The pope told them to always make sure their human and athletic sides are in harmony.
“Be champions in sport, but above all, be champions in life,” he said.
The Coppa Italia Final between AC Milan vs Juventus kicks off at 7:45pm. It will be aired on Sky Sports 2 HD from 7:40pm tonight.
Picture: Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic, right, challenges for the ball with AC Milan’s Ignazio Abate, center and AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda during a Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Juventus, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, on Saturday 9th April 2016. (Luca Bruno/AP Photo/PA).