December 4, 2013
Francis to Argentine and Italian soccer players: 'You have a social responsibility'
The Argentine and Italian national soccer teams visited Pope Francis today in a 15-minute private audience held at the Vatican ahead of the friendly match they will play tomorrow in Rome to pay homage to the Argentine pontiff.
"It’s difficult to act like a soccer fan because this will be a friendly match, let it be that, I beg you. I thank the authorities of the Italian and Argentine Federations and I salute the players from both teams,” Pope Francis said and talked directly to them: "You are very popular inside and out of the field, you have a social responsibility.” “I think soccer must not be the place for individualism and three things, beauty, gratefulness and camaraderie, are part of sports and must never be abandoned,” he added speaking in both Spanish and Italian languages.
The ceremony began with a speech by the president of the Joco Calcio Italian Federation, Giancarlo Abete, followed by the head of the AFA Argentine soccer association, Julio Grondona, and concluded with Francis’ words and the blessing of the Olive branches, a peace emblem which will be symbolically seeded at the Olympic stadium in Rome, and moved later to the Vatican’s gardens.