Thursday , 18 October 2018
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The loneliness of Lionel Messi

It happened in 2014. With just two minutes remaining, hearts ticking faster than the stadium clock, Messi stood over a free kick. The Argentine faithful prayed for ‘the divine to intervene’. It seemed improbable from that distance or width. But it was a sort of moment when ‘miracles’ happen, dreams come true.

The hopes were dashed a moment later.

Four years ago, it could have been Lionel Messi’s night of redemption, glory, fulfilment and maybe even peace. But 1-0 down against Germany, he failed to ‘seize the day’.

There was a more earthly opportunity earlier, but Messi had rolled the ball wide.

The fans wondered: “Would he have scored if he was in a Barcelona jersey?” The thought was irrelevant, but damning. For, Messi is condemned to bear the ‘cross’. He is Atlas Telamon, the ‘enduring Atlas’ for whom the Golden Ball for Best Player was a burden because his best on the day was not good enough.

It would be crossing many lines to place his predicament in such Biblical or mythical proportions. In fact, an Argentine football club recently recreated the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of its gymnasium, with Diego Maradona as God and Lionel Messi as Adam, although the latter’s genius on field can sometimes make us forget his tortured soul.

Barcelona may have his heart but Argentina has his soul. You read in a Guardian blog that “his accent remains Rosarino, his favourite actor is Ricardo Darin and his favourite food is his mother’s milanesas with tomato and cheese.”

Messi’s wedding last year in his hometown may not have been as simple as his tastes, so do his tax records, but give him a football and the real meaning of ‘jogo bonito’ comes alive.

Possibly there is Cristiano Ronaldo pushing him to the edge and beyond, the sound of broken records and numbing numbers. The endless stats, comparisons, full-page analysis are there for people to gobble, but there is something intangible. A rose doesn’t compete with another rose, it simply blooms. There is simplicity, honesty, flavour, joy, intuition, playfulness. It is as though time doesn’t exist.

And yet time is ticking, ticking away for Messi, all of 30 now.

The agony was palpable when a crouched Leo, wallowing in despair, hand on head, chose to call it quits. Having been beaten by Chile in the 2016 Copa America Centenario final, Messi’s moist eyes conveyed his journey was in vain. He could almost taste the trophy before it was snatched away, before he sent the penalty into heaven. Feeling responsible, he walked away shedding his cloak as Argentina’s deliverer. Maybe, he can get back to happiness now at his Nou Camp fortress, away from the scrutiny and remarkable blame. And even hatred (news of his statues being vandalized in Argentina is a common story).

Yet, love brought him back. The arrival boards at Buenos Aires airport read: “No te vayas Lio”: “Lio, don’t go”. Despite all the problems in the Argentine federation and the storm within, the outpouring of affection changed the script.

The qualification for next month’s World Cup was purgation. Argentina, who played under three different coaches, were outside the four qualifying spots going into the final match in Ecuador. Jorge Sampaoli’s team talk was emotional: “Messi does not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owes the World Cup to Messi”.

Argentina were struggling to breathe in the high altitude of Quito, falling behind after 37 seconds. But the hero’s bright attitude and genius changed everything. A hat-trick, completed by an exquisite dink over the goalkeeper, ensured the flight to Russia and escape from ignominy.

Now, Messi with his van Gogh beard, stands in front of the jury again. Perhaps, it’s been a refreshing season at Barcelona, the ‘early’ ouster from the Champions League a definite blessing for all those Argentines begging for their messiah to be wrapped up in cotton wool. Perhaps, the resurrection will be complete on July 15 at the Luzhniki Stadium and a new Easter Sunday will be celebrated.
Or perhaps, he is just human, destined to fall again. He would have touched the stars anyway. The world, maybe, is not meant for one as beautiful as him.
Let’s celebrate the Man, or the Messiah. Because we are going to miss Messi when he’s gone.

Lionel-Messi-Graphic

Source : timesofindia

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