Soccer fans especially those obsessed with magical legs of Argentina international and Barcelona goal machine, Lionel Messi have been told to resist the temptation to either compare him with God or call him ‘God’ as that amounts to sacrilege.
Head of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City state, Pope Francis, cautioned over the growing tendency to paint a larger than life image of Messi, saying, while there is nothing wrong in appreciating the expertise, adoring should only be for God.
The pontiff was speaking to host Jordi Evole on the ‘Salvados’ programme broadcast on Spanish TV channel La Sexta when he was asked about people referring to Messi as ‘God’.
‘In theory, it is sacrilege, you cannot say it, I don’t believe. Do you believe you can? And Pope Francis replied:
When Evole replied that he thought it was fine to say that, the pontiff, a native of Argentina like Messi, responded with a laugh and said: ‘I don’t.
‘People say ‘God’ like they say ‘I adore you’. Adoring is only for God, they are expressions people use. ‘He is a god with a ball on the pitch’, they are popular ways of expressing oneself.’
‘But look how he plays, eh?’ Evole responded.
The pope replied: ‘Of course, he brings happiness, but he isn’t God.’
The Pope has previously admitted to being a football fan and follows Argentine top-flight side San Lorenzo de Almagro.
Messi’s second-half brace gave Barcelona a 2-0 victory over city rivals Espanyol on Saturday.
Messi is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, with five Balon D’Or and five European Golden Shoe awards to his name.
He has spent his entire his professional career at Barcelona, where he has won nine Liga and six Copa del Rey titles and four UEFA Champions League cups. However, he is yet to play in a World Cup-winning side for his native Argentina.
Pope Francis, born, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is an Argentine and first Pope from outside Europe since the Gregory III who reigned in the 8th century.
Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor on 13 March. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.