Below is a Zenit translation of Pope Francis’ address to the Italian soccer squads of Juventus and Lazio who compete in the finals (‘the Cup of Italy’) tomorrow:
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I am happy to meet with you on the eve of the final match of the “Coppa Italia.” I thank the President of the Italian Soccer Game Federation for his kind words, and I congratulate the two teams, Juventus and Lazio, that, in addition to reaching the finals, are greatly loved by sports people. This commits you even more to witness the genuine values of sport.
Therefore, I wish to return briefly with you on the importance of sport in our time. Considering the fascination and effect that professional soccer has on persons, especially on young people, you have a notable responsibility. Those who are considered “champions” become easily reference figures. Therefore, every contest is a test of balance, of self-control, of observance of the rules. One who with his behavior is able to give proof of all this, becomes an example for his admirers. It is what I wish for each one of you: to be witnesses of loyalty, of honesty, of harmony and of humanity.
Unfortunately, sometimes in stadiums there are violent episodes, which disturb the serene unfolding of the matches and the healthy recreation of the people. I hope that, to the degree that it is in your power, you will always be able to help the sports endeavor and remain as such and, thanks to the personal commitment of all, to be a motive of cohesion between sports persons and the whole society. I thank you from my heart for your visit and I hope you will have a truly good match! I invoke upon you, upon your families and upon dear persons the Lord’s blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Zenit, Virginia M. Forrester]