Sport gives us lessons for living in peace, says Pontiff.
Football hooligans and stadium riots: it hardly paints a promising image of faith walking hand in hand with sport–particularly the competitive kind–but Pope Francis, in a message to all World Cup watchers and participators, gave a big thumbs up to the worldwide soccer competition and to the practice of sport in general.
The Pontiff’s message was broadcast on Brazilian TV Globo Network, where he said that "sport is in fact an instrument to communicate the values that promote the good of the human person and help to build a more peaceful and fraternal society. Here we think of loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing and solidarity.”
Sport is a metaphor for life
Francis offers three lessons that sports teaches, which he said are essential for living in peace: the “need to train,” “fair play” and “respect for opponents.”
In order to win you have to train, he said, and “we can see in this sportive practice, a metaphor of our life…In life you need to fight, to train, to put the effort in, in order to achieve important results.”
“The sporting spirit reminds us in this way,” he continued, “of an image of the sacrifices necessary to grow in the virtues that build the character of a person.”
The Pontiff emphasized the importance of fair play in sport because "soccer can and should be a school for the formation of a culture in which people meet each other, which then leads to harmony and peace between peoples."
"To win you have to overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and exploitation of the human person. So being ‘individualistic’ in soccer is an obstacle to the success of the team; likewise if we are ‘individualists’ in life, ignoring the people around us, it damages society as a whole."
Go for victory!
The Pope underlined that “the secret to victory on the field is the same as victory in life: it resides in knowing how to respect my team mate, as well as my enemy.”
“No one wins alone, neither on the pitch or in life!” he exclaimed, adding that no one should isolate himself during this competition.
“If it is true that at the end of this World Cup, only one national team can hold the cup high as winners, learning the lessons that sport teaches us, we are all winners, reinforcing the bonds that unite us.”
The Pontiff also expressed his wish that "in addition to a celebration of sport, this soccer World Cup may be transformed into a celebration of solidarity between peoples."
The World Cup tournament begins today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There have been violent protests in the run-up to the competition, against corruption and the expense of the nation’s hosting it.
It is little surprise then, that Pope Francis’ concluding remarks called for peace during this competition: “May this World Cup take place with complete serenity and tranquillity, always with mutual respect, solidarity and fraternity among men and women who recognize that they are members of one family."