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  • oliver delgado

'On Messi and the World Cup'

Updated: Jan 16

After watching the documentary about Bernie Maddof and his infamous Ponzi scheme, I thought about how true is the saying 'time puts thing in its place'. There is a mysterious sense of justice or redemption that the passing of the years can bring in a cabalistic way. As the details of Maddof's scheme were brought to light, we learned that he had been able to sustain a lie for so many years through his skillful understanding of men's psychology in his dealing with his clients, the authorities and aparently even his family in almost perfect calculated fashion. His arrest was delayed but he eventually encountered the deserving punitive fate of his illicit actions.

I think about Messi and Argentina in complete contrast to Maddof, success was a logic outcome for a player and a country that had made countless merits to win the most desired and elusive trophy in the sport of football, the World Cup. Let's don't forget they were finalists a couple times since 1986 when they won it last.

The talent of Argentinian players is undisputed. It is not by coincidence that at least 3 of the best soccer players in history were born in Argentina; players that dominated the game in their corresponding generations, Di Stefano, Maradona, and Messi. I can not recall a relevant international soccer club without at least one Argentinian soccer player. How to explain that extraordinary occurrence is certainly a subject well deserving of further analysis that would undoubtedly found reason withing the socio-cultural aspects of that nation and passion for the game.

Argentina has had at least two other generations since 1986 that could have won the cup considering the quality of their squads and specific players. Worth mentioning was Bielsa's team; a team who had qualified in an undefeated fashion and winning all friendly games against the strongest European teams. It was an very impressive team to watch. They however ended up with huge disappointments and being disqualified in early stages in spite of being considered favorites in various occasion; proving how difficult is to win the title.

The World Cup is a short tournament in which timing and fortuity also play a role aside from the talent of the team; not always the best team wins. It is perhaps such quality of the game that fascinates us and makes it universal, or comparable to life itself. Soccer is unpredictable, and quite frequently unjust, except for some occasions. This latest tournament occurred in the fashion of a Hollywood script. In one hand, an aging hero perhaps playing his last world cup and last chance to finally win the only trophy that has escaped his laureated career; for some critics, a pending subject that questions his status as the greatest soccer player of all times.

On the other hand, there was the perfect antagonist, the next in line to replace Messi as best player in the world , Killian Mbappe and the powerful team of France, the defending champions. He gave a first class performance showing his talent, confidence, and the physical abilities of his youth. His sprints and skills give the impression that he is always a step ahead of everyone with a perfect connection of brain command and body. Messi on the other hand, has lost that fraction of second advantage he always had compared to other players; Instead, he has compensated his physical decline with the experience and masterful understanding of the game, the timing and wise distribution of efforts. He sees the space as in a bird's eye view, like the aerial camera's of a stadium, rarely making a wrong decision in ball distribution, control of the ball, body placement or awareness of the rival positioning. During the whole tournament both players undoubtedly proved to be capable of influencing with authority the outcome of a game as Jordan did on a basketball court, and Maradona, Zidane or Pele on a football pitch. Both players rose to the occasion.

Any analysis about Messi's performances needs to transcend the numbers, the statistics, primarily because football is also an art and spectacle where emotional strength, aesthetics and creativity are present and should always be consider in the analysis. In essence, it is easier to destroy than to create. Thus, the importance on valuing the dribble, the risk taking, and the technique, and most importantly the creativity. Failing to include that in analysis of football or a player is simply speaking about another sport. Consider the nature of our liking for teams like Brazil 1970, and 1982; Their ludic and aesthetic qualities seduced us. Those teams made a lasting imprint in our retina. In the same way we don't value Shakespeare for how many words he wrote, or a dancer by how many jumps he or she does, soccer has attributes that are not quantifiable.

There was a strange sense of unanimity about wanting to see Messi win, perhaps as recognition for his merits, empathy for his past final loses, his professionalism or most importantly his humility. Even rival players manifested this sentiment. His humility can not be overlooked, considering the many accolades, wealth, fame, and even the harsh criticism from radical fans, toxic media and critics even within his country, or the nationalistic and rival team disputes fueled by media debates. Messi has remained grounded at top level for so many years. His temperance has been extraordinary as well; all of which increases the merit of his genius.

It will be difficult to beat this final considering all the factors that were involved on it, including the historical setting, first cup in the middle east, a city born out of nowhere, literally like a desert oasis. Qatar was Buenos Aires for a day and so was most of the world. Once again, 'time put things in its place' as a masterful play; Along with that comes a comforting hope, some sort of a romantic faith that justice prevails even within the context of this unjust world and at times unjust game too. Not even the distasteful celebrations or arrogance of some Argentinians can ruin the merits of their success. Congratulations Messi and Argentina for your unique soccer and a well deserved win.

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