Play Station or Playing Field?

When the Italian team returned to Italy from S. Africa, they were all dressed in black.

Via The Catholic Spirit and Catholic News Service this about the increasingly strange L”Osservatore Romano on Italy’s World Cup disaster. 

Vatican newspaper weighs in on Italy’s World Cup humiliation

By Sarah Delaney – Catholic News Service  
Monday, 28 June 2010

If today’s kids would just turn off their electronic games and kick the ball around in the parish playground, Italian soccer might have a future.

That was the suggestion in a commentary June 26 in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, in the wake of the humiliating first-round elimination of the Italian national soccer team in the World Cup in South Africa.

The commentary, under the headline "Let’s throw out the PlayStation and get back to the parish playground," said Italy’s national squad — defending world champions — lacked preparation, strategy and especially a deep roster of great players. [Or could it be that the top level Italian teams recruit so many non-Italians that there aren’t enough Italians with premiere league experience to hold their own in the World Cup?]

The solution in the past, it said, has been to turn attention to the younger generations playing in the "oratorio," the parish playground where countless Italian professionals have developed their soccer legs.

The local parish playground is a familiar place in the hearts and minds of many Italians. Older Italian films often depict a strict but goodhearted priest playing ball with his young wards, cassock flying as he runs in the church courtyard.

"But today’s kids have PlayStation, they don’t go to the ‘oratorio’ to play soccer anymore," the commentary said. "How are they going to become players, and some, maybe, even champions?"

Turning off electronic games would be a start, it said. More training and less emphasis on foreign players in order to build on the local talent is also necessary, it added.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Global Killer Asteroid Questions, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I wonder if there is some weird inverse relationship between GDP and Countries with World Cup victories this year?

    I agree with you father that it is possible that the “local” talent cant get better if it isn’t playing at the elite level, but I wonder if this article is on to something: the tech-hobbies of our youth might be a cause for the lack of athletic skill…

    I don’t buy it… but I think it could be posited as a theory.

  2. rakesvines says:

    ‘Mens sana in corpore sano.’ With the playstation, that is not achieved. Hence, the loss of physical strength, mental acuity and eventually character. We need to pull the plug on these games.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Maybe a real economic depression in all Western countries would help the boys get back outside, as mom and dad would not be able to afford the current electricity bills. I absolutely hate the gaming sub-culture and wish “older boys” in their thirties and forties would give a better example to those younger male persons. Games create a cult of individualism, where youth no longer can play on teams with each other and where they do not learn the manners and rules of good sportsmanship.

  4. Joe Magarac says:

    The Italians won the world cup in 2006. It’s hard to believe that the culture of computer gaming wrecked Italian soccer in just four years’ time.

    If there’s a problem facing Italian soccer, it’s probably the fact that there are relatively few Italian kids, period. Italians, though nominally Catholic, have one of the lowest birth rates in the world. Like too many other historically Catholic countries in Europe.

  5. Supertradmum says:


    I can believe it. But, the unintuitive manager did not chose really young people, choosing some of those who have played in World Cups gone by. Not a good decision and why I think they lost. Just compare the ages of those on the team then and now. Four years is a lot of time in a 20 year generational curve. The present men range in age from 23-36, which means that half the team is of the Millenial Generation, who grew up playing computer games. They might not have had PlayStation however as children, but then older “children” buy it and play it as well. However, as half the team is really old by World Cup playing standards, I blame that more.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    May I add that the top ten Italian soccer players were left off the team on purpose, but they are not all “young”.

  7. Rob Cartusciello says:

    In my paternal ancestral village of Padula, Italy is the Carthusian monastery of La Certosa di San Lorenzo. It was abandoned after Napoleon’s troops sacked Italy in the early 1800’s.

    The Certosa cloister is the largest one in Europe. My cousins remember practicing soccer in the Certosa gardens.

    In recent years, the Italian government has restored the cloister to it’s Baroque grandeur. There are fewer soccer games, but more tourists.

    I blame the population crisis for the decline of the western European teams.

  8. PS says:

    One thing to keep in mind when it comes to these video game statistics: the mean age of a video game player (32-34 by recent reckonings) is not so old necessarily because those that grew up playing games continue to play them. Indeed, game playing in general seems to drop off quite a bit from about 24-28 on (as people get out of college or grad school into the professional world, I’d reckon), but the 55+ crowd has begun to regularly play games which, of course, drives up the mean age quite a bit. A quickly growing demographic besides these retirees has been women, and, more specifically, stay-at-home mothers (the latter makes sense, when you think about the dwindling size of many American families relative to 50+years ago).

    Supertradmom: I think/fear that the days of there being a gaming “subculture” are quickly passing, and we’ve just got gaming “culture.”

  9. Supertradmum says:

    I can’t imagine older people having the time to play games. But, then, I comment on Father Z’s blog. Are we a subculture? I still wonder if Italians are so into this stuff as American kids of any age are.

  10. Lurker 59 says:

    I completely disagree with the analysis. Most games, especially the ones aimed at older audiences are anything but individualistic but rather promote team interaction, manners, and good sportsmanship. In fact, especially for an older age group, the games that are most played and most sold are those that need to be played co-operatively.

    Granted many modern team games tend to be aggressive, but so too is sport, especially in its infancy and gaming is in its infancy being only a few decades old.

    The desire to “get outside and run around” doesn’t appeal to everyone. Those who are at play in side on the computers are those who play in their minds and are attracted to strategy and intellectual prowess rather than physical prowess. In addition gaming is attractive to those whose positions in life or physical condition doesn’t allow them the opportunity to play traditional sports. Not everyone can own a race car, but everyone can in the computer world.

    Just as with sport, there are many things that gaming can help with to develop individual’s virtue. Sure it can be abused, but so too can sport. People live their lives inside the computers and the PlayStations? People live their lives inside the stadiums vicariously experiencing achievement (which is virtual to a greater degree than the personal achievement won online).


    The real problem with gaming is not that people are not outside kicking the ball around; it is that people are finding more self-worth, more affirmation of their humanity, more ability to excel as a person in the gaming environment and through their interactions with people online than in their day to day lives. What does it say that people are finding more connectivity and more friendships in gaming than they are in real life? How even worse when an individual finds a greater friend in a NPC AI than they can find in real life?

    And besides, the blogging here and all the commentary is just a sport for people that like playing with words and ideas. Debate and discussion is just as much sport as pigskins being thrown around.

    Everyone does sport in their own ways, the thing is not to ban one particular type or another, but to make all sport ever more virtuous.

  11. C. says:

    Perhaps God wanted to send Italy more soccer players, but their would-be parents didn’t cooperate with God’s plan.

    Video: How to build a soccer team

  12. Leonius says:

    What people seem to forget is that for there to be winners there most also be losers, and everyone else wants to win to.

    The ridiculous over-reactions when a team loses personally puts me right of sport.

  13. Leonius says:

    As for kids not playing sport I would suggest it has less to do with the lure of playstations and more to do with a lack of fathers. We had computer games in my house to but my dad forced us outside.

    It as my father who first played sports with me and by the time I went to school you could always tell the kids with no fathers who had not played any sport before because they were always useless, and finding themselves always losing they soon stopped playing altogether.

  14. Patrick J. says:

    Il Azzuri are ‘long in the tooth.’

    As far as Euros, the German team looks really strong, reversing a trend. Out of the final Sixteen: Six Euros, Six Central/So. Ameros, One N. Amero (US), Two Asian, One African. Of those countries, none represent particularly well the “poorer extreme” of each region. Hard to make a case for lower GDP domination. Ghana, not poor by African standards, I think has a real chance to go deep into the tournament, perhaps providing the first African champion, a long shot though, and so many African teams have had to head home as of today. Too bad. Seems no one is sending the So/Central Americans home except other So. Am. teams.

    The brackets:

    I am going ‘not so far out’ on a limb and say Brazil-Argentina in the final, and I guess I like Argentina to win it all, even with the madman Castro sympathizer at the helm.

    As was said before Il Azzuri were the champions just four years ago, and you use native players on the national team, as opposed to the club teams of whatever country, where there are a lot of international transfers. So, no reason to panic there, not yet.

    The poor Azzuri, good as they usually are, and though they have met each other quite a few times, just cannot seem to beat (never has happened) tiny Hrvatska (Croatia), for some strange reason! Gotta love that!!

  15. MWindsor says:

    Playstations don’t have anything to do with it, or the Japanese wouldn’t even have a team.

  16. Eric says:

    I’m shocked! How could the Vatican let this anti-immigration rant be published?

  17. Jayna says:

    Eric – I wouldn’t call it anti-immigration. I happen to think that a lot of the Premier League teams would do well to try and cultivate the talent in England. It helps to build a much stronger national team come World Cup and the Olympics. I mean, do we call it anti-immigration when anyone says that native vocations to the priesthood should be promoted? It’s rather the same thing. Well, sort of anyway.

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Is it anti-immigration to want a national team? Our baseball teams would have the same problem in the Olympics, if the immigrants would not become citizens. Also, do we not want American boys to grow up wanting to play on American teams? Where is your national spirit, which is not a bad thing? And, patriotism is one of the minor virtues.

    The same happens in cricket in England, where so many foreign players are allowed to play on the county teams, but when the international games are played, all play on their native teams.

Comments are closed.