Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
A banner with the image of the late soccer legend Diego Maradona is displayed at a stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2019. Pope Francis said Maradona -- who died in November 2020 -- gave joy to millions of people. (CNS photo/Javier Garcia Martino, Reuters)

The legendary career of the late Diego Armando Maradona proved that he wasn't just a skilled soccer player, but a true artist whose creativity and athleticism brought joy to countless fans, Pope Francis said.

“On the field he was a poet, a great champion who gave joy to millions of people in Argentina as well as in Naples (Italy),” the pope said in an interview published Jan. 2 in the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Maradona, 60, died in November after suffering a heart attack two weeks after undergoing brain surgery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Diego Armando Maradona wasn't just a skilled soccer player, but a true artist, Pope Francis said.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez declared three days of national mourning, while in Naples, thousands mourned his death and laid wreaths outside the stadium where he played between 1984 and 1991.

Despite a career marked by highs and lows, including battling drug abuse, he is most famous for his infamous goal, dubbed “the hand of God,” during Argentina’s quarter finals match at the 1986 World Cup.

As team captain, Maradona subsequently led the Argentine national team to victory in the 1986 World Cup, an event the pope fondly remembered taking place while he was living in Germany “studying the language and researching material for my thesis.”

Maradona is most famous for his infamous goal, dubbed “the hand of God,” during Argentina’s quarter finals match at the 1986 World Cup.

Unable to watch the World Cup final, the pope said he had learned about Argentina’s victory over Germany when a Japanese student wrote “Viva Argentina” (”Long live Argentina”) on the chalkboard during a German lesson.

“Personally, I remember it as a lonely victory because I had no one with whom I could share the joy of that athletic victory,” he recalled. “Loneliness makes you feel alone while what makes joy beautiful is being able to share it.”

He also recalled meeting the soccer legend at the Vatican in 2014 and Maradona’s participation at a charity game to raise money for Scholas Occurentes, an educational project Pope Francis supported as archbishop of Buenos Aires and expanded as pope.

The pope told La Gazzetta dello Sport that after learning about Maradona’s death, “I prayed for him and I sent his family a rosary with some personal words of comfort.”

In life, Maradona was not shy about his affection for the pope, whom he credited for inspiring him to return to the faith after many years.

"Pope Francis is even bigger than Maradona," he told journalists in 2014, according to the Reuters news agency. "We should all imitate Pope Francis. If each one of us gives something to someone else, no one in the world would be starving."

More from America

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Amid a tense and volatile situation in Eastern Europe, Pope Francis today called for prayers worldwide.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 23, 2022
For the first time in modern church history, women have been formally installed as lectors and catechists, by a decree of Pope Francis.
Catholic News ServiceJanuary 23, 2022
How does the Catholic Church decide what’s a miracle and what is just a rare healing—or a hoax?
JesuiticalJanuary 21, 2022
While the church’s prayer should not be a battlefield, Archbishop Roche says it is understandable that people are passionate about it.