Pope Francis: Maradona was a poet, a great champion and a very fragile man

Pope Francis Diego Maradona
The Pope recalled his memories of hearing Argentina win the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany while he was studying in Frankfurt

The late Diego Maradona was a man beloved by his fellow Argentines – and Pope Francis is seemingly no exception.

The Pope recalled his own memories of the 1986 World Cup final, when Argentina beat West Germany while he was studying in Frankfurt.

He told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "I met Diego Armando Maradona during a Match for Peace in 2014: I remember with pleasure everything that Diego did for Scholas Occurrentes, the foundation that takes care of the needy all over the world.

“On the pitch he was a poet, a great champion who gave joy to millions of people, in Argentina as in Naples. He was also a very fragile man.

“I have a personal memory linked to the 1986 World Cup, the one that Argentina won thanks to Maradona. I was in Frankfurt; it was a difficult time for me, I was studying the language and collecting material for my thesis.

“I hadn't been able to see the World Cup final and I only learned the next day of Argentina's victory over Germany, when a Japanese boy wrote 'Viva l'Argentina' on the blackboard during a German lesson.

“I remember it, personally, as the victory of loneliness because I had no one with whom to share the joy of that sporting victory: loneliness makes you feel alone, while what makes joy beautiful is being able to share it.

“When I was told of Maradona's death, I prayed for him and sent the family a rosary with a few personal words of comfort.”

Pope Francis also spoke about his own love of football, from playing with a ball of rags on the streets of Buenos Aires as a child.

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"I have a memory, that of the ball of rags, the pelota de trapo: leather was expensive and we were poor, rubber was not yet so common, but it was enough for us - a ball of rags to have fun and almost perform miracles playing in the square near home.

“I was not among the best! Indeed, I was what in Argentina they call a "pata dura", literally ‘hard leg’. That's why they always had me playing in goal.

“But being a goalkeeper was a great school for me. The goalkeeper must be ready to respond to dangers that can come from all sides.”