Pope grants private audience to Croatia football team, HNS delegation

ZAGREB, 5 June (Hina) – A private audience with the Holy Father was held in the Vatican for the Croatian national football team and a Croatian Football Federation (HNS) delegation led by president Marijan Kustić, the HNS said on its website on Wednesday.

“While you play football, you are a team and have the honour of representing your nation. This ‘being a team’ is an aspect of sport I like to underline because it’s a comparison to social life in the various environments where one lives and works with others. Individual actions are important, imagination, creativity. But if individualism prevails, the overall dynamic is disrupted, and the goal is not achieved. So, thank you for setting an example of how to be a team,” said Pope Francis.

Kustić  presented the Pope with a framed Croatian national football team jersey with the number one and the name Franjo (Francis in Croatian) on the back, as well as a replica of the first ball used to play football in Croatia.

“It’s a great honour to have had the opportunity to meet with the Holy Father, and we thank him for his blessing and kind words. We are proud to have the privilege of representing the Croatian people through football. I believe the world has come to know Croatians as a talented, passionate, and brave nation through our national football team, whose most important values are faith in God, and love for family and country. Images of our players celebrating their faith in God during the greatest moments of Croatian football have been seen worldwide and shown how important faith is in the lives of our players. That’s why this meeting was invaluable to all of us,” said Kustić.

“We are blessed to have had the opportunity to meet with the Holy Father. The slogan of our team is just one word, family. Family values are the foundation of all our successes. Unity, cooperation, respect, support, friendship, love, and faith: that’s what this team represents, promotes, and lives day by day. This meeting has further inspired us to continue in the same direction, to represent our people and homeland with dignity,” said head coach Zlatko Dalić.

“At the last World Cup, you were third. This time, be first or second,” Pope Francis said at the end of the audience.

After the audience, Auxiliary Bishop of Zagreb Ivan Šaško took the team and the HNS delegation through St. Peter’s Basilica and a joint prayer was said at the altar of St. John Paul II.