Football is a game, Pope Francis on Friday reminded a gathering of 6,000 Italian youngsters at the Vatican, asking them not be become fanatics who "stain" the game.
"Football is a game: shall we say it together?" the Argentine pontiff told the crowd, who chanted back at him.
"Don't forget, football is a game," said the pope, an ardent supporter of Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, calling on parents to "give this mentality to their children".
"Many people describe football as the most beautiful game in the world. I think the same, but that's a personal opinion," the pope said to thunderous applause in the vast Paul VI audience hall.
Unfortunately, "we see things, on the pitch or behind the touch line, which stain football's beauty," the pope said, citing sometimes negative examples of parents who become "ultra supporters, managers or coaches".
"Don't forget where you came from," he said to a handful of stars who also attended the event. It's up to such stars to help youths become "champions of life," he said.