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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pope Francis meets with the Villareal CF team

At 9:50am today, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the members of the Villareal CF football (soccer) team who have come to Rome to play a game as part of the Europa League 2017.



Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the
Villareal CF football team

Dear friends, good day to you,

I happily greet all of you, football players, trainers and coaches of the Villareal team, and I thank you for your visit on the occasion of the game that you will play this afternoon.

Football, like other sports, is an image of life and of society.  On the field, you need one another.  Each player puts his professionalism and ability to the benefit of a common ideal, which is to play well and to win.  To achieve this affinity, you need much training; but it is also important to invest time and energy into strengthening the spirit of the team, in order to create a connection between these movements: a simple look, a small gesture, an expression can communicate many things on the field.  This is possible if you act in a spirit of fellowship, leaving aside individualism or personal aspirations.  If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win.  On the other hand, when you think of yourself and not about others, we in Argentina say that you are one who likes to eat the ball for himself.

On the other hand, when you play football, you are also teaching and passing on values.  Many people, especially young people, admire you and are watching you.  They want to be like you.  Through your professionalism, you pass on a way of living to those who are watching you, especially new generations.  And this is a responsibility and a privilege to motivate them to give the best of themselves to exercise the values that are evident in football:  companionship, personal effort, the beauty of the game, playing as a team.  One of the characteristics of a good athlete is gratitude.  If we consider our own lives, we can remember many people who have helped us, without whom we would not be here.  We can remember the ones we played with as boys, our first team friends, coaches, assistants, and even the fans who through their presence encouraged us in every game.  This memory does us good, not so that we can feel superior but so that we can be aware that we are part of a great team that has been formed over a long period of time.  Feeling this way helps us to grow as people, because our game is not only our own; it is also other people's game - those who in many ways are part of our lives.  And this also strengthens the spirit of amateur games; you should never lose this sense, you should strive to remember it every day so that you can maintain freshness and greatness of soul.

I encourage you to continue playing, giving the most beautiful and best part of yourselves so that others can also enjoy these moments of joy, which make the journey different.  I join with you, I pray for you, I implore the blessings of the Virgin of Grace and the intercession of Saint Pascal Bailón, Patron of the city of Villarreal, to support you in your lives and so that you can be instruments to support all those who follow you and encourage you with the joy and the peace of God so that you can share these gifts with your friends.

It helps me a lot to think about football because I like it, and it helps me.  However, the position I think of most often is the goalkeeper.  Why?  Because he has to catch the ball from where ever it is kicked; he never knows where it will come from.  And life is like that.  We have to take things when they come and from where they come.  And when I find myself facing situations that I did not expect, things that need to be resolved that have come from there when I expected them to come from here, I think of the goal keeper, so he is always close to me.  Thank you.
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