Lionel Messi: a symbol of everything that is good about football
For a footballer who has enjoyed unprecedented success at club level having won a host of international accolades from the sport’s governing body and tons of trophies with Barcelona, Lionel Messi is an incredibly down-to-earth, media-shy and reluctant celebrity and an inspirational member to have in any team for the positive influence he brings to the dressing room with his outstanding commitment to his craft. Perhaps this attitude stems from the hardships that he had to undergo during his childhood and the false start he endured on his senior debut for the Albiceleste that has made this 22 year old genius an incredibly calm character who realizes that after every crest, a trough will follow and thus takes victory and defeat equally in his stride.
Born to a father who was a factory worker and a mother who was a part time cleaner in the small town of Rosario in Argentina, Lionel Messi almost had his gift to boss a football taken away from him when his parents couldn’t afford treatment for his growth-hormone deficiency. One shudders to think what would have happened to this precocious talent had Barcelona not identified him and volunteered to pay his medical bills in return for him using his God-given gift with the football to help Barcelona go places in the top tier of football. Unlike several heart-breaking stories of athletes’ talent going waste due to the trials and tribulations of the social demon called poverty, Lionel Messi’s story would have a happy ending, or should I say a happy beginning, for it was when Barcelona signed the teenager in 2003 that a new chapter would begin in his life and an era would begin in the history of Barcelona FC.
Messi made his debut for Barcelona at 16 and earned his first senior international cap for the Argentina national team at the age of 18. His first start for the Albiceleste turned out to be a false start as he was sent off after being just forty seconds on the pitch for elbowing Hungary defender Vilmos Vanczak. Later in September that year, Messi got his second chance, which he described thus “This is a re-debut, the first one was a bit short”. In the words of the then manager Jose Pekerman,
“Argentina has discovered a jewel”.
Since then, the jewel has been shining brightly as the little magician has grown leaps and bounds, tearing past defenders at break-neck speed with his slalom dribbles and a visionary eye for a pass.
Having won everything there is to win and being the world’s highest paid footballer with Barcelona, Messi is a guy who has voiced his outspoken loyalty to the club that helped save his life and forge a career. In an age when footballers become increasingly opportunistic and seek moves to different clubs to further their ambitions, Lionel Messi is a stand-out character whose ambitions are always in sync with that of his club, a footballer who is tied to Barcelona FC with an unbreakable bond of loyalty and stands for everything that is good about football. Hailed as the successor to Diego Maradona, perhaps the only criticism that can be leveled against the little Argentine is his inability to translate his devastating form to the national team. Messi vehemently denies comparisons with his idol, “I want to avoid comparisons because for me there has never been anyone quite like him” but everyone knows that with time on his side, Messi can surely going on to achieve wonders with his national team and emulate his idol who is known as the greatest footballer of all time.
Edited by Zico