Pope to Soccer Players: 'Educate and Transmit Values'

Departs From Text to Remind Spanish Villarreal Football Club, How Like Goalkeepers We Are to React to Unforeseen Events

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Remember you are to be role models, educating and transmitting values…
Pope Francis gave this advice to members of the Spanish Villarreal football club, managers and coaching staff, this morning in the Vatican. The team competes against ‘AS Roma’ tonight in the city’s Olympic Stadium in their second leg of the “Europa League» Championship.
Francis began by reminding them that soccer, as the rest of sports, is an image of life and of society. In the field, you need one another. Each player puts his professionalism and ability for the benefit of a common ideal, which is to play well to win.
Acknowledging the effort, training, and sacrifice need, Francis remind how important it is that each player maintains a spirit of fellowship, «leaving aside individualism and personal aspirations. If one plays thinking of the good of the group, then it is easier to obtain victory.»
The Pontiff also reminded them of their responsibility to educate and transmit values.
«Many people, especially young people, admire and observe you. They want to be like you. Through your professionalism, you are transmitting a way of being to those that follow you, especially the new generations.»
«This,» he continued, «is a responsibility and it should motivate you to give the best of yourselves to exercise those values, which in soccer must be palpable: fellowship, personal effort, beauty of the game, team play.»
The Pope also reminded them that to be a good athlete, one must demonstrate ‘gratitude,’ for example to all those many people that have helped us and without whom, we wouldn’t be here.
«You can recall those with whom you played as a child, your first team companions, trainers, assistants and also the fans who encourage you in every game with their presence.»
Francis encouraged them to continue playing, giving the most beautiful and best of themselves so that others can enjoy those agreeable moments.
«It helps me a lot to think of soccer because I like it, and it helps me.» Francis added off the cuff, noting, «But the one I think of most is the goalkeeper.»
«Why?» he asked. «Because he has to catch the ball from wherever it is kicked, he doesn’t know from where it will come. And life is like this.»
«Things must be taken from where they come and as they come. And when I am faced with situations I did not expect, which must be resolved, and came from here when I expected them from there.»
Pope Francis thanked the players for coming and gave them his blessing.
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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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