VATICAN CITY — With the World Cup just months away, time is running out for interested nations to get Pope Francis to support their team.
Who knows what kind of added boost a papal cheerleader can give players on the field? After all, was it is really coincidence or was it the “Francis bump” that powered his favorite San Lorenzo squad to nab the Argentine league title a few months ago?
It seems the soccer-loving pontiff is aware national teams might be trying to curry favor with him right now.
When President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil — host country of this summer’s games, showered the pope last week with some soccer swag autographed by legends Pele and Ronaldo, the pope — in jest — asked whether the gifts were an invitation for him to put his prayers behind Brazil to win the World Cup.
President Rousseff insisted no one was asking for any favoritism, just some assurance of “neutrality,” according to a Vatican statement.
Argentina hasn’t been shy, however, about counting on the pope for his full backing.
One of the country’s sports’ channels, TyC Sports, put out a very creative ad a while ago for the upcoming FIFA championship.
By cleverly editing the pope’s winning speech “to go forward” to millions of young people in Brazil together with images of Argentina’s national squad scoring goals, the ad asks: “If one Argentine did this in Brazil…imagine 23,” the number of men on the national team.
Disclaimer: Obviously the pope’s words were taken out of context. Just so you know what he was really saying in that talk on Rio’s Copacabana beach July 27 was urging everyone to be “true athletes of Christ” and train hard to follow Jesus:
Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to “play on his team.” Most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Right? Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples…
Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! Something bigger than the World Cup! Jesus offers us the possibility of a fruitful life, a life of happiness; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, in eternal life. That is what Jesus offers us.
But he asks us to pay admission, and the cost of admission is that we train ourselves “to get in shape,” so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith, by talking with him in prayer.
— Pope Francis
prayer vigil with young people Rio de Janeiro July 27, 2013