Dear Lionel: A letter to Messi from an ardent Argentina Fan
I am heartbroken, and You probably know why. Perhaps the 2018 FIFA World Cup carried an overwhelming amount of expectation from all of us because when You lifted us to the main event with a hat-trick in the final qualifier, we felt now was the time when the world would finally kneel to us, to You.
It was now or never for us and yet, we feel torn to pieces. We were already starved and dehydrated at the plight of Argentina Football Team when You burst into the scene, in 2006. You with your silky skills, the body feints, the ball glued to your left feet, You put seeds of hope inside our cracked, withered hearts.
You had taken La Liga by storm already and club football was bubbling with excitement. A little of that rubbed on us too and we got excited. Even though the disappointments did not end, there was still hope, because we had you.
2006, 2010, 2014, the heartbreaking Finals, we endured, we were shattered, but we got up, refusing to let our hopes die.
We had one more final to look forward to. And so, this World Cup disappointment was the hardest to bear, because, in all this time, we had grown a little tired and annoyed. Tired of waiting, Leo and annoyed at the inability of the team to give us our moment of salvation. We are shattered because we feel things will never be right for us.
But in all these, we forget how it feels to be You. We forget how it feels to win all your battles with Barcelona and yet nurse a hollowness deep inside.
We do not know how it feels to win the FIFA Youth Championship and the Olympic Gold with Argentina and still be taunted for winning nothing for the country. We do not know how it feels to be diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency as a child and not have the money to pay for the treatment.
We do not know how it feels to represent your country in four FIFA Tournament Finals and continuously end up on the losing team. We forget how hard it is to be Lionel Messi, the best player in the world.
Yes, we are disappointed, but we forget how million times more disappointing it is for You to not achieve the one thing you crave for, the one thing you desire, perhaps even more than all of us – an International trophy with your beloved Argentina.
Does a trophy alone define greatness? Or can it be defined by our actions too? When you are Red Carded in your debut for Argentina, leaving you in a pool of tears in the dressing room and yet you come back stronger, is that not greatness?
When you are being offered the chance to represent Spain and better your chances of winning the World Cup playing around your club mates, but you decline and opt to represent your own country, to fight for glory among your own, is that not greatness? When you lead your country to three consecutive Finals, end up in the losing side, but still have the courage to keep trying, again and again, is that not greatness?
When you stay loyal to the institution that you helped you out and paid for your life changing treatment as a child, even 18 years on, isn’t that a sign of greatness? When you have the FIFA Golden Ball, five Ballon D’ors and countless other trophies and yet continue to be humble in life, is that not greatness?
When you marry the woman you have adored all your life and inspire the rest of the world to believe in true love, is that not greatness?
A true great is someone who can be looked at as an example, who can inspire. Look around you, Leo. You have inspired a million kids to pick up the ball. In the land of our hearts barren for ages since Diego, you brought relief, you brought life.
Maybe the future will be bright and someone will lift the trophy again for Argentina, yet maybe he will not be endeared to us as you are. Because with or without the fabled trophy, Leo, you mean the world to us.
So cheer up, lift your chin and look to the skies. Feel our arms around you if you are lonely, find our shoulders to rest your weary head. It shall always be there, whenever you need a hand.
If you are down, feel the warmth in our hearts for you. It shall never die, it shall never end. There is a Copa to prepare for, and there is never enough time. Arise, prepare, inspire a team, a nation and rally ahead. We are with you, in victory and in defeat, forever and after.