Pope Francis meeting members of the Real Club Celta de Vigo Spain Pope Francis meeting members of the Real Club Celta de Vigo Spain  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope to Celta Football Club: Sport teaches sacrifice and teamwork

Addressing members of the Spanish football club Celta de Vigo, Pope Francis highlights the true meaning of sport as an opportunity to rediscover and promote the values of teamwork, self-sacrifice, and fraternity.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis on Monday welcomed in the Vatican the players and managers of the Spanish Football Royal Club Celta de Vigo, celebrating its centenary. The club, also simply known as ‘Real Celta’, was founded in the Basque town of Vigo, in Galicia, in 1923.

In his address, Pope Francis again reflected on sport as a metaphor of life and on its true meaning as “an opportunity to rediscover and promote values”, such as giving oneself generously,  working as a team,  but also welcoming the other as a friend, to promote a more united and fraternal world. 

We are all united

Noting that the team bears the same sky-blue colours of the Virgin Mary, and those of the national football club of his home country, Argentina, Pope Francis started his reflection by remarking that it is almost as if Mary "had wanted to put herself the two shores the Atlantic which has united us more than separating us, so that we never forget her"

The Pope also recalled that when Celta’s current president Carlos Mouriño Atares, who was born in Vigo, had to cross the Atlantic as a young man to raise his family in South America, leaving his home town for a while, he left “more than a piece of his heart”,  waiting for him in Spain, where he eventually returned.

“In a way," said the Pope, "we could say that the heart of humanity is made up of all those little pieces which, staying or leaving, remind us deep down that we are all united; that we are all pilgrims in the stormy sea of existence.”

Self-sacrifice and team-work 

Pope Francis also reflected on another feature of the insignia of the team: the Cross of St. James (a cross resembling a sword, with the hilt and the arm in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, ed.), rising like a banner of victory. “Even that cross recalling your Galician homeland," he noted, "unites it to Europe and, in it, to all of Christianity, which from time immemorial has wandered in the footsteps of the first Apostle who shed his blood for Christ.”

Like the Cross of Saint James,  the Pope remarked  “both in the stadium and in life,  your weapons are those small gestures to which we sometimes don’t pay any attention: winning starting from humility, working as a team without relying only on one's own strength, understanding that victory belongs to everyone. It is also giving oneself generously, sparing no effort, knowing how to sacrifice oneself for the other."

“Team-work is important: when you don't work as a team in the world of sport, everyone loses.”

"In the same way”, the Holy Father continued, “it is accepting that comparing ourselves with other teams serves to improve, to learn, to test ourselves and evaluate our game.”

In this sense, he stressed, “the other, more than an adversary worthy of respect, is always a welcome friend.”

Game and life

“If our game and our life are consistent with each other, we will set this example and be able to convey not the passion for the colours that exclude, but the love for what they represent,” Pope Francis said.

“These white and blue flags and this path of the Apostle (St. James) enable us to cross oceans and unite continents, while waiting for the crown of justice that the Lord, the fair Judge, will grant to all who hope in Him.”

Never lose the amateur dimension of sport

Concluding, Pope Francis insisted, once again, on the importance of preserving the amateur dimension of sport.

“When sport loses this amateur dimension”, he warned, it turns into  an “aseptic business, devoid of passion.”


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10 July 2023, 12:58