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Pope Francis' urge to "Giving Your Best"

“Giving the Best of yourself” is a document about the Christian perspective on sport and the human person. It consist of five chapters which was presented in 2018 at a conference in the Press Officer of the Holy Spirit. In it, Pope Francis writes  “Giving the best of yourself in sports is also a call to aspire to holiness” in the document which wants to offer the Christian perspective of sport to those who practice it, assist as spectators, and participate in it as technicians, arbiters, coaches, as well as to families, priests, and parishes.”

Pope Francis twirling a football On many occasions and with increasing frequency, the Popes have referred to sport as a means of promoting the encounter with the Creator, people’s social inclusion, and the development of the nations. Pope Francis has a special love for football, a confessed fan of Argentine club San Lorenzo, the club which he adored as a young boy, he continuously uses sport and moreso football as an avenue to relate some of his beliefs. Between August 13th to present he has addressed several sporting bodies and teams including visiting delegations of the Argentina and Italy national football and rugby teams, Lazio and Napoli clubs’ delegation of the NFL, the international Ice Hockey Federation and the annual congress of the European Cycling Union among others. Addressing an audience which included about 6,000 children in the meeting “The football we love” Pope Francis stated,  “Sport is a great opportunity to learn to give the best of yourself, with sacrifice and commitment, but above all,not alone.” “We live in a time when, thanks to the massive presence of new technologies, it is easy to isolate oneself, to create virtual bonds with many people, but at a distance. “The great thing about playing with a ball is being able to do it together with others, passing it in the middle of a field, learning to build the action of a game, joining together as a team ... The ball becomes a means of inviting real people to share friendship,” observed the Holy Father. Directing his words to coaches, he said “coaches have an important role, because they represent a point of reference for children who train. “Everything you say and do, and the way in which you say and do it, is a lesson for your athletes, and as such will leave an indelible mark on their life, for better or for worse” He reserved his final words for the managers, whom he exhorted always to defend the amateur spirit of the game. “May the beauty of football not be lost in the do ut des of financial affairs.

Pope Francis’ support for San Lorenzo which hasn't won a title since 2007 demonstrates that you don’t always to be a fan of the best. He theoretically could have had his choice of good local clubs to follow, including more traditionally successful sides like Boca Juniors and River Plate. But no. In keeping with the Biblical tenet that “The meek…shall inherit the earth,” (Matthew 5:5). The Pope teaches us that while it is okay to admire the best athletes and try to emulate them, we must understand that God still stands above all.

Pope Francis with Leo Messi

In an interview broadcast on Spanish TV  he said  that his countryman Lionel Messi is not in fact divine. When asked about Messi being referred to as a God, he replied, "In theory it's a sacrilege. You can't say that." "People could call him God, just as they might say 'I adore you', but only God can be worshipped. "[To say] 'He's a god with the ball on the pitch' is a popular way to express yourself. He's great to watch - but he's not God." Throughout human history, sports and religion have been closely linked. Like religion, sports convey important lessons about values and culturally appropriate behavior. The lessons they teach are similar, and both religion and sports use symbols as their primary means of communication. It can be argued that the connection between sports and religion depends on one's beliefs and how they were raised. But we cannot deny that like in everything else, belief in God can have an effect  on performance and outcome. There has to be good reason why players offer the sign of the cross, looking up to the heavens after scoring a goal, why teams offer a final prayer before taking the field and why we stand in a one minute silence to mark the passing of someone. Just ask ex Trinidad and Tobago national team football defender Marvin Andrews about the connection and he will tell you. And well, the way things are looking these days, we may well need lots of prayers, faith and belief if we are to experience future good times in some of the major sports that we we've grown to follow here in Trinidad and Tobago.

by Shaun Fuentes, a former 2010 FIFA World Cup Media Officer

"I thank God for all the victories and conquests I've had this year as a player and I bring to the altar two prizes. This is first my son who is about to be born. The other is my trophy from FIFA, which I want to dedicate to God." - Ricardo Kaka, Brazilian footballer

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