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Pope Francis Recalls His Youth Playing Football, Dubs Diego Maradona “Poet”

With a ball constructed from rags and surging adrenaline, the younger Jorge Bergoglio and his buddies pulled off “miracles” taking part in soccer on the street, Pope Francis recalled on Saturday. Now 84, the Argentine pope remembered “the joy, the happiness on everyone’s faces,” after the 1946 victory of his Buenos Aires workforce, San Lorenzo, in a 31-page interview about sport printed Saturday in Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. The first pope from Latin America referred to as Diego Maradona a “poet” on the sphere, as he weighed in on the thrill of sport.

Expounding on themes of arduous work, sacrifice and camaraderie, Francis shared reminiscences of the makeshift footballs that sufficed to exhilarate him and his boyhood buddies.

“Leather cost too much and we were poor, rubber wasn’t used so much yet, but for us all we needed was a ball of rags to amuse ourselves and to create miracles, almost, playing in the little square near home,” Francis mentioned.

Acknowledging he was “not among the best” of the footballers, Bergoglio performed goalkeeper, which he characterised as a superb college for studying how to reply to “dangers that could arrive from anywhere”.

The pontiff — described by the paper as “a pope of the people in the most noble sense of the term” — touched on the necessity for teamwork and dealing in direction of a shared objective.

“Either you play together, or you risk crashing. That’s how small groups, capable of staying united, succeed in taking down bigger teams incapable of working together,” he mentioned.

The interview, which occurred in early December on the Vatican, additionally noticed the pope condemn doping in sport and stress the necessity to nurture expertise by arduous work.

“It’s not only a cheat, a shortcut that revokes dignity, but it’s also wanting to steal from God that spark which, through his mysterious ways, he gave to some in a special and greater form,” he mentioned.

Francis referred to as the Olympics “one of the highest forms of human ecumenism”, involving “sharing effort for a better world”.

He recalled assembly Argentine footballer Maradona, who died in November, throughout a “match for peace” in Rome in 2014.

“On the field he was a poet, a great champion who brought joy to millions of people, in Argentina as well as Naples. He was also a very fragile man,” Francis mentioned.

The pontiff mentioned that after studying of Maradona’s loss of life, he prayed for him and despatched a rosary to his household with some phrases of consolation.

The pope, who has made inclusion of marginalised folks one of many central themes of his papacy, shared his amazement and emotion on the accomplishments of the athletes who compete within the Paralympic Games, whereas expressing disappointment at “rich champions” turned “sluggish, almost bureaucrats of their sport.”


Sport, he mentioned, was marked by the efforts of so a lot of those that, “with sweat on their brows” beat these born with “talent in their pockets”

“The poor thirst for redemption: give them a book, a pair of shoes, a ball and they show themselves capable of unimaginable achievements.”

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