On May 2nd, the day before the final of the Italian Soccer Cup, the teams of Napoli and Fiorentina were received by the Holy Father. In addition to the two teams were also received the leaders of the Italian Soccer Federation and the representatives of the Italian Soccer League.
Two of the most important aspects that Pope Francis focused attention on were: football as a social fact that "requires a social responsibility on the part of players and managers"; and the economic factor which is likely to pollute the sport.
As he had said to the players of the Italian and Argentinian national soccer teams on August 13th of 2013, the Pope encouraged the athletes to be true sportsmen: "You are the center of attention and many of your admirers are children and young people; He reminded the players that as role models for their many fans, especially the young, they have a great social responsibility to always behave well, like “true sportsmen.”
In addition, the Pope explained, "today soccer is turning into a big business: advertising, television, and so on. But the financial factor must not prevail over the sporting factor because it risks polluting everything, both at the national and local level."The Pope also spoke of when he was a child: "As a boy I went several times to the stadium and I have good memories. I went alone and with my family. There were joyful moments, on Sunday, along with my family”. He described those outings as “glorious” occasions and said he hoped all popular sports like soccer can recover that festive flavor. Sport has a strong educational value that encourages “solidarity, loyalty and respect for others,” the Pope concluded, “and I hope that soccer will always promote this potential”.
Rafa Benitez, coach of SSC Napoli, described the emotions of the meeting of May 2, with Pope Francis said: "It was my first time in the Vatican and a beautiful emotion. It is understood that Pope Francis is a person very close to the people, because of the things he said about soccer. He's absolutely right: we protagonists in the field must be an example to all. "