Pope Francis has hailed fellow Argentine Diego Maradona as a “poet” on the pitch but additionally acknowledged his frailty away from the sport.
In a wide-ranging interview with Italian sports activities day by day La Gazzetta dello Sport printed on Saturday, Francis recalled his personal days enjoying soccer as a youngster with a ball manufactured from rags and laid naked his scorn for doping cheats.
Francis is a huge soccer fan and met Maradona, who died in November, a number of occasions after changing into pope in 2013.
“On the field he was a poet, a great champion who gave joy to millions of people, in Argentina as in Naples. He was also a very fragile man,” Francis mentioned.
Maradona performed for Napoli from 1984 to 1991 successful two Serie A titles and the UEFA Cup. In 1986, he captained the Argentine staff to victory in the World Cup.
Despite his love for the recreation, Francis mentioned he was residing in Germany at the time and was not in a position to see the remaining performed in Mexico towards West Germany. He solely found the end result the subsequent day when a scholar wrote “Viva Argentina” on the blackboard throughout a language class.
“I personally remember it as a victory of loneliness because I had no one to share the joy of that sporting victory with,” he mentioned.
Francis mentioned he himself had no expertise for the sport and was pressured by his companions to play in purpose.
“But being a goalkeeper was a great school of life for me. The goalkeeper must be ready to respond to dangers that can come from all sides,” he mentioned.
Being poor, he recalled how he and his buddies couldn’t afford a correct ball, so needed to improvise: “All we needed was a ball made of rags to have fun and perform.”
While extolling the virtues of sport, Francis took intention at athletes who took performance-enhancing medication.
“Doping in sport is not only cheating, it is a shortcut that destroys dignity,” he mentioned. “Better a clean defeat than a dirty victory. I wish this for the whole world, not just the world of sport.”