Gianluigi Buffon Shares What It Takes To Be a Winner

In Wake of Meeting With Pope Francis, Soccer Star Stresses Importance of Character in Sport

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An international soccer icon has acknowledged that being a good person is key to success.

Speaking to ZENIT on the sidelines following an audience yesterday at the Vatican in which Pope Francis met the soccer players who participated in last night’s Interreligious Match for Peace at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Gianluigi Buffon responded to what it takes to be a winner, saying that “in addition to technical qualities, it requires character, human qualities.”

“It requires being a good professional, but it also requires being a good man. I mean, it requires a certain strength and many other qualities,” said the Italian goalkeeper who plays for and captains both Serie A club Juventus and Italy’s national team.

Holding a record number of appearances for Italy, Buffon is widely considered to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Soccer legend Pelé declared him to be one of the 125 greatest living footballers in the world and he has been named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record eight times.

Describing his meeting with the Pope just minutes earlier, he reflected, “It was a pleasure,” and was “more than a gesture. It was so much more.”

The 36-year-old Catholic told ZENIT that faith is personal and should be respected for all people.

Asked about the importance of this match, particularly in bringing about peace, he said that an opportunity such as this gives the players and himself the chance “to seek and to be able to make this world better,” as well as to “move consciences.”

“For us, it’s a pleasure,” He added, “I believe we are tools in this world, and that each of us has a way of leaving a message,” which he noted ought to be positive, but sometimes is not.

“We hope to demonstrate the value of this call,” he said.

Aimed at uniting fans and players from all world regions and faiths in support of world peace, the Interreligious Match for Peace featured current and past players representing different cultures and religions: Buddhist, Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Shinto.

Proceeds from the match will go to “Scholas Occurrentes” an educational institution that promotes social integration and to “P.U.P.I,” a non-profit long-distance adoption charity which helps disadvantaged young people.

In the match, which followed a musical performance by pop star Violetta and a video-message from Pope Francis in Spanish with Italian subtitles, the players were split up between the Scholas and P.U.P.I. teams. Though Scholas started out in the lead, P.U.P.I won with a final score of 6-3.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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