Spain – The Faculty of Theology in Seville hosts the 2nd Conference on Sport and Faith

09 April 2024

(ANS – Seville ) – The San Isidoro Faculty of Theology of Seville hosted, on 4 -5 April, the 2nd Conference on Sport and Faith, organised by the Archdiocese of Seville in collaboration with the Salesian Congregation. About a hundred participants, including 30 from Salesian backgrounds, took part in this event, aimed in particular at operators linked to the Pastoral Care of Sport, namely teachers, coaches, catechists, priests, sportsmen and anyone involved in the educational-sports field. Executives, coaches and sportsmen of recognised prestige also participated.

During the days there were several speeches and round tables, such as the one held by former footballers Javi Varas and Juan Carlos Unzué, as well as by the First Division referee Jorge Figueroa Vázquez, the latter a former student of the Salesian school of Nervión, called "How to live the faith in professional sport". During the intervention, Unzué explained the process of SLA, a disease he suffers from and which forces him to use a wheelchair, and took the opportunity to launch an appeal to the public authorities: "We cannot allow people who want to live to feel forced to die due to a  financial problem, because they feel that they are burdening their families." Juan Carlos Unzué has lived with the mission of improving the conditions of people suffering from SLA ever since he discovered that he has it.

For his part, Jorge Figueroa Vázquez expressed the desire to "humanise the figure of the referee more, to highlight our personal side." Telling some personal and family episodes derived from his activity as a referee, he said that gestures showing the religious identity and practice of sportsmen are not so rare. This was also confirmed by Javi Varas.

The next round table focused on overcoming self and limits in sport, with a contribution from marathon runner José M. Roas, the Paralympic swimmer Paco Salinas and the members of the "Nastic de Tarragona" team, Rubén Cano and Álvaro Almazán. Roas, who runs marathons with his son Pablo who has cerebral palsy, said that "Pablo is a blessing in himself, because he is proof that God exists and supports us."

For their part, Cano and Almazán outlined the path that led them to dedicate their time to this new experience, in which a thousand people are already involved. Paco Salinas, on the other hand, spoke about the need to train at the highest levels with Paralympic approaches and acknowledged that faith gives him the strength to move forward.

Javier Tebas, President of the Football League, closed the opening day with an address in which he related sports practice and the needs it entails with the commitments that derive from a life of faith. To do this he used the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians: “Life is a spiritual race, and we must make every effort possible.” Along these lines, he then explained why sport is comparable to the journey of faith: "Faith is also trained through the fulfillment of the commandments".

The opening session was attended, among others, by representatives of the two football teams in the city, the president of "Sevilla FC", José María del Nido Carrasco; and the Director of Institutional Relations of "Real Betis", Rafael Gordillo; together with Minerva Salinas, Councillor of the Municipality of Seville for Sport.

Two further round tables and a final presentation were organised on Friday 5 April. The day began with a discussion on how to educate in the faith through sport, involving Sister Guadalupe Escudero, from the Order of Virgins, responsible for the house of spirituality at the Zamartze Monastery in Navarra; the sports coordinator of the Escuelas Católicos Sevilla, Manuel García; and Gema Saez, basketball teacher at the Francisco de Vitoria University of Madrid and Director of the Sports and religious facts research group at the same university. The discussion, aimed mainly at coaches and sports teachers, was moderated by Gabino Carmona, sports coach and director of Talent Executive Coaching, a program of coaching processes for coaches, teams and players of professional and grassroots sports.

The day then ended with a talk by Paralympic swimming athlete Enhamed Enhamed, who briefly told the story of how he overcame vision loss. In this regard, he invited us to live with gratitude, to ask others for help when we need it, and to trust in God. At the same time, he showed the audience how hard it was to achieve these beliefs; however, as he hit rock bottom in his sports career, he sought and found help and accompaniment.

During the day, Javier Trigo also presented the book "God is a sportsman", with 20 stories that illustrate this statement. Subsequently, Trigo himself and Carlos Balbé presented the beginnings of the Defe Foundation, which aims to create a forum for discussion and reflection in which formulas and strategies for working with sport in education emerge.

To conclude the day on Saturday 6 April, the First "Sport and Faith" Tournament was held on the Sevilla 3000 field. The competition was aimed at the youngest in the Archdiocese of Seville, children between the ages of 8 and 12, and highlighted the importance of integration even among the youngest.

Finally, great satisfaction was expressed by Diego Pérez Ordóñez, Head of Educational Sports for the Salesians of Seville and member of the organising committee of the Day of Sport and Faith, described as "a magnificent meeting of integration and evangelisation through sport in the Archdiocese of Seville".


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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