“He was a great champion who brought joy to millions of people, in Argentina and in Naples.” Pope Francis paid tribute to football legend Diego Maradona, who died on November 25 at the age of 60, after having helped the Naples club to conquer its only two Italian league titles (1987 and 1990) and Argentina to win the World Cup-1986. The sovereign pontiff of Argentina even called his compatriot “poet on the ground”, in a river interview published on Saturday, January 2 in The Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian).
The 84-year-old head of the Catholic Church said he had prayed for the deceased and sent a rosary to his family, accompanied by words of comfort. “He was also a very fragile man”, added Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who had met Maradona in 2014 in Rome during a “match for peace”.
In this interview, the Pope, who is a supporter of San Lorenzo, a club in Buenos Aires, also drew parallels between sport and his convictions, denouncing the “rich champions”, became “soft, almost bureaucrats of their sport”.
The sovereign pontiff, the first pope from South America, has finally castigated doping, “not just a cheat, but a shortcut that disproves dignity”. Doping would come back “to steal from God the spark which he gave, by his mysterious ways, to some in a particular way and in greater quantity.” “Better a clean defeat than a dirty victory”, concluded François.