The Inter captain did not only speak about football with Pope Francis. “I told him”, he recounted to our newspaper, “about the initiatives that we are organizing for Argentine children at the PUPI Foundation and other projects which Inter Campus continues to promote around the world using football as an educational tool.
Established in 2001 by Zanetti himself and his wife Paula, the PUPI Foundation — an acronym for Por un pibério integrado (“pibério” means colts) but it is also the Nerazzurro captain’s football nickname — aids thousands of materially and physically disadvantaged children, young people, mothers and fathers.
Located in Lanús, south of Buenos Aires, the foundation promotes various initiatives involving health, nutrition, education and social justice. Work which is near to Pope Francis’ heart. The Holy Father, admiring the Christian witness of the footballer, showed particular interest in his work and encouraged him. “He underlined”, Zanetti said, “that it is possible to improve the world especially when we work together. It is not simple but we can do it. And we, in our own small way, are trying”.
In an cordial atmosphere, the Pontiff spent about an hour in the Santa Marta Residence with the Inter footballer and his wife and three children: Sol, 7, Ignacio, 4, and Tomas, 11 months. “He just learned to walk”, Zanetti said, smiling, “and during our meeting he did nothing but go from one end of the room to the other. So much so that in the end the Pope put his hand on his little head almost as if he wanted to stop him!”.
“I am very pleased”, he said, “to have had the possibility to fulfil my dream. And I feel honoured to have the Pope as a ‘fellow countryman’. I was able to experience first-hand that Bergoglio is a very open, humble and simple person. But what struck me most was his trust in the possibility of building a better world. And this for me and my family, and for our foundation is a vote of confidence”.