2006 – A little girl in eighth grade walking past the television set at home, stopped cold. The reason? Some kind of magic, the kind which you look at in awe, restrained her to the spot and stopped her from walking further. Her father had been watching a football World Cup match of his favorite team late in the night. Until then ‘football’ for her was just the name of another sport that existed. She fixed her eyes on the television screen or rather let’s say moved her eyes across to the television screen, fixing it on a human creating magic. Noticing the gleam in his daughter’s eyes, the father spoke “Are you enjoying what you are seeing, my child? Come, sit, and let’s watch it together. That’s Lionel Messi with the ball at his feet. A talent to watch out for”. That night was her first ever encounter with Leo Messi.
2010 - Four years later, by this time the little girl had grown up. She was the one who kept dad informed of the match schedule and timings now. By now she had developed a keen interest in club football as well. the World Cup in South Africa was something she had waited to watch for a long time. Until now she had only seen football players playing for their continental titles with their national sides. This was a chance for her to watch them sweat it out on the big stage. The quarter-finals saw Argentina exit from the tournament but the Maradona – Messi combo moments were the most adorable ones I saw that year.
2011- One fine evening while returning from university, the girl, now a freshman, was checking her Facebook notifications. One particular post made her eyes fill with excitement. The post confirmed, “Lionel Messi to play a friendly in Kolkata early next month”.
Her favorite sportsperson. Check.
Coming to her own city. Check.
To play a match. Check.
In national team jersey. Check.
Could she be more thankful?
She had always wanted to watch Lionel play live someday. Often daydreamt of sitting at some faraway stadium in a foreign country and watching his genius. But never in her wildest thoughts had she imagined it would come true this way.
2 Septemeber 2011. The day etched in her memory. A story to be told independently.
To serve the purpose of this article, the girl’s Facebook status update after watching Messi live, should be enough to express the emotions:
“The most wonderful emotions often can’t be described in words. I don’t know how exactly to describe the experience I had at Yuba Bharati Krirangan yesterday. Should I mention the long wait in the queue of thousands of fans, the electrifying atmosphere once you enter the stadium, the cheer in unison with unfamiliar faces every time Leo was on strike, those every single moment my heart missed a beat when HE came closer to my block for a corner or the glitter of tear in my eye when HE walked out of the field for the last time? It was simply the most unforgettable day ever”
2014- The girl’s personal favorite Leo Messi year. The world by now had seen how time and again Leo had single-handedly carried his teams to cup finals. But this year’s World Cup saw the summit of it till date. Victory in the game was just not written for his team but the way he won hearts is beyond imagination.
Today the very same girl is writing this letter to you. Writing it with the intent that it reaches you before, any official announcement is issued by the concerned boards stating “Messi has confirmed his retirement from international football”.
Staying oceans away from where you stay I don’t have much to do except making use of the power of the internet and hoping that my message reaches you.
Don’t you quit, My Champion; Not this way.
Though you have said in an interview that you are done, my heart wants and my mind believes that you shall think upon this once more even after the repeated thoughts you have already had about it in the past.
Above was a timeline of my Messi Moments in an Argentine national team jersey. There are many such moments which I have lived and cherished with you when you were in club jersey too. If I go on to pen them down I might end up writing a novel. Messi moments are a major part of my life. You have no idea how much you affect my life even without knowing me personally. Needless to say, there are many others like me. And take it from me, it is a big deal. They drive me on at my best. They drive me on at my worst.
Ever since you have made the world aware that you feel you are done with the national team I have not been able to remain sane. Tears, restlessness, helplessness are what that drove me for days. It is then when I decided to write this with the hope that you might read this message sometime.
You have said, “This decision would be good for everyone”. Truth is, it would be good for none other than people who envy you. Are you willing to surrender to do “good for” only such negative people? You really don’t need to do “good” for such negative energy in your life. What about the number of fans who live to watch football only for you? What about people like me who have started watching football because of you? What about that little child trending on social media a few days back, who was ready to wear even a No. 10 Argentine jersey made out of rag plastics? What about the multiple fans who often run to hug you on the field only to show how much they love you? Do you think it would do them any “good”? No.
Forget the AFA. For once base your decision thinking of us. We form your WFA (Worldwide Fan Association). We love you for who you are as a football player and a person, and not because of your statistics. Had you scored only a single goal in your whole career or even none for that matter we would have still loved you for the magical moments you create only by letting your feet touch the ball.
We are already heartbroken by your decision. We know you are heartbroken the most. We also know that taking such a decision wasn’t easy for you. Only after you have reached tolerable limits could you utter those words out of frustration, anger, and pain.
Yet...This is not the way you should quit. Not with tears of pain. You quit with tears of joy my champion.And trust me by this I do not mean you have to score a winning goal at the 2018 World Cup before you quit. I simply mean, quit the day when you yourself are proud to have given your all to your national team. Proud that you entertained football lovers of your own nation and worldwide. Proud that you have their hearts.
My friends have been telling me that you can watch still watch him at club football matches. But 99% of your fans including myself enjoy watching you more in Argentine jersey. Your stats with Barcelona might be on another level but watching you in national colors is heavenly. The way you single-handedly power your team to and through the crucial stages deserves a World Cup alone. Which other player playing currently for this generation has done that. None. Absolutely none. Everyone has a whole team as back up. But you have led a one man army. We love you watching doing just that. You know how eager we are to see you in 2018. What about those people who are already saving money to watch you play in Russia? Will you not return for them and their love for you?
We want you to win titles in national jersey because that’s what you deserve and seeing you get your recognition will make us happy. It’s definitely not because of thoughts like “Messi has done nothing to win a World Cup. Messi is not a good leader. Messi should retire”. Such negative thoughts can only come to minds of people who don’t love you for your talent or envy it. We at your WFA love you unconditionally.
You said you have “failed four finals”. Fail four more and that still doesn’t even qualify to take away the “champion” title that you already earned. Your failing did not reduce our belief in you. It made us trust you more. Your failing did not make us withdraw our support. It just reinforced it.
But, your tears, made us cry. Your decision gave us fear. Fear of losing display of live magic.
You lost motivation. The world saw how even a person of so much worth can feel worthless sometimes. Now we want to provide you the inspiration you need.
You do the same to us through your story, each time we lose motivation.
We are with you. Please don’t quit this way.
Love can heal the toughest of situations, they say. Out of love I write this to you. Out of love I know you shall return.