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

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With a ball made from rags and surging adrenaline, the young Jorge Bergoglio and his friends pulled off “miracles” playing football on the street, Pope Francis reminisce about on Saturday. Now 84, the Argentine pope remembered “the delight, the happiness on everyone’s faces,” after the 1946 victory of his Buenos Aires team, San Lorenzo, in a 31-page interview approximately sport published Saturday in Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. The first pope from Latin The usa called Diego Maradona a “poet” on the field, as he weighed in on the joys of sport.

Expounding on themes of tough work, sacrifice and camaraderie, Francis shared memories of the makeshift footballs that sufficed to exhilarate him and his boyhood friends.

“Leather cost too much and we were naughty, rubber wasn’t used such a lot yet, but for us all we needed was once a ball of rags to amuse ourselves and to create miracles, nearly, playing in the little square close home,” Francis said.

Acknowledging he was once “not the most effective” of the footballers, Bergoglio played goalkeeper, which he characterised as a good school for learning how to answer “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 need for teamwork and working towards a shared goal.

“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 said.

The interview, which took place in early December at the Vatican, also saw the pope condemn doping in sport and stress the want to nurture talent through tough work.

“It is not only a cheat, a shortcut that revokes dignity, but it is usually wanting to steal from God that spark which, through his mysterious ways, he gave to a few in a special and greater form,” he said.

Francis called the Olympics “some of the highest forms of human ecumenism”, involving “sharing effort for a better world”.

He reminisce about assembly Argentine footballer Maradona, who died in November, all through a “match for peace” in Rome in 2014.

“On the field he was once a poet, a great champion who brought delight to millions of people, in Argentina in addition to Naples. He was once also a very delicate man,” Francis said.

The pontiff said that after learning of Maradona’s death, he prayed for him and sent a rosary to his circle of relatives with some words of consolation.

The pope, who has made inclusion of marginalised people some of the central themes of his papacy, shared his amazement and emotion at the accomplishments of the athletes who compete in the Paralympic Games, while expressing disappointment at “rich champions” turned “sluggish, nearly bureaucrats of their sport.”

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Sport, he said, was once marked by the efforts of such a lot of of those who, “with sweat on their brows” whip those born with “talent in their pockets”

“The naughty thirst for redemption: give them a book, a twosome of shoes, a ball and they show themselves capable of inconceivable achievements.”

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