The Catholic News Agency reports that L’Osservatore Romano has reprinted some 1985 comments by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the World Cup and what its fans call “the beautiful game”:
“The fascination with soccer,” he wrote, “lies essentially in that it forces man to discipline himself, such that, through training, he acquires dominion over himself. Through dominion, he achieves superiority. And through superiority, freedom.”
Soccer, he continued, teaches the person the value of “disciplined cooperation” and demands an ordering of the individual within the group. “It unites through a common objective; the success or failure of each one is tied to the success or failure of the group.”
Cardinal Ratzinger ended his meditation on the game with these words, “If we look deeper, the phenomenon of a world excited over soccer can provide us more than mere entertainment.”
The future pope’s reflections on soccer (or football, if you prefer) first appeared in the book Suchen was droben ist (“Seek that which is above”).