“Sport boosts growth”

The words of Spanish bishop Algora Hernando. A "soccer" nation

The World championship in Brazil began a few days ago. And the Spanish national team, the team that holds the title of World and European champion, is playing with the “wrong foot”. In the first match against Holland, as in the final of the 2010 World Cup, it went under with a dishonourable 5 to 1 in favour of the “Oranges”. So while the 2014 Cup was awaited with great anticipation, now Spain is nervously following the developments on the soccer fields on the other side of the world. Soccer is Spain’s national sport, and its supporters include bishops, who are great soccer fans. Gigliola Alfaro, for Sir Europe, interviewed the bishop of Ciudad Real, Monsignor Antonio Angel Algora Hernando. Sport is given great consideration in his diocese. The Diocesan delegation for Youth Pastoral Care has organized a diocesan soccer and basketball tournament, to be held June 27-29 in Villarta de San Juan. The initiative – which the Delegation hopes will be a new adventure prompting the encounter of sport and education – has also a dedicated website: www.copadiocesana.es. Your Excellency, Spain’s national soccer team is currently a World and European champion, but it suffered a heavy defeat in the opening match: how does Spain live this world championship? “I think it’s a great event for the whole world. Many eyes will be focused on Brazil and on the World Cup. Although it is basically a sport event, it encompasses many values: effort, sacrifice, probably pain of the defeated, camaraderie, sportsmanship, team game… it should be realized that these values are represented in sport. Many have seen the film ‘Invictus’ by Clint Eastwood that gives an important account of history in South Africa. The film speaks of the importance of sport, and of how, through sport, many more things can be achieved”. Are there experiences of oratory and sport tournaments in parish churches and dioceses? “Yes. Many sport tournaments and championships are organized by parishes and seminaries where future priests are formed. As said, sport in general, which includes soccer, plays an important role in transmitting core values that can serve in the education of children and youths”. I assume there are many soccer fans in your Country. “Soccer is the ‘king of all sports’ in Spain. It has more fans than any other sport. Thousands of supporters each week follow their favourite team with great passion. It should be pointed out that when Spain won the World Cup four years ago, the following day it seemed as if people’s problems had vanished. It seemed – or rather, that was my impression – as if the economic crisis that has been holding us all in its grips for the past years had ceased to exist. Suddenly, it seemed as if we were ‘in another world”. Is soccer used as means to transmit values? “Yes, indeed. I remember when I was in the seminary. We used to play soccer and basketball. It was very important for me. When you play, you don’t think about yourself. You think about your team, of victory and also of the possibility of defeat. In both cases, sport should be accompanied by commitment, cooperation, so that the team may play at its best. After all it’s like life. But sport-shows, with million-euro contracts, tax frauds and corruption are something else, leading to an anomy whereby it’s normal to say ‘everything is ok'”. Apart from these negative cases, is sport a fundamental part of the integral formation of youths? “I believe it is. Precisely because, as previously mentioned, it’s like life itself. If someone in a team makes a mistake he doesn’t only damage himself. He makes the whole team suffer with him. Educating young people to be integrated into society, realizing that we’re part of a whole, that everyone is important and that each one has to play his role and serve everyone else. In sports everything is seen in a simple way, enabling us to reflect on a deeper reality”.

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