When Lionel Messi, with his moist eyes, stares towards nothingness, he can stop the world around you. When he gets agitated and argues with a referee, you too get angry.
And when you see him running circles around the best in the world and then make them chase shadows like he did with defender Josko Gvardiol on Tuesday night in Doha, the world seemed a better place.
You are jumping with joy. Some would have woken up their loved ones from deep slumber to share the excitement. You can win every trophy in the world but FIFA World Cup is special. Pele touched it thrice, Maradona too got a chance to caress the hands that held the ‘Golden Globe’.
And If Messi now misses this chance, it would be a chapter unfinished in the pages of football history. In his fifth and last World Cup, Messi, just like global cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, badly wants to lay his hands on the trophy.
Tendulkar lifted the Blue Riband trophy in his sixth and last global appearance in 2011 in Mumbai.
Can Sunday bring that Tendulkar moment for Messi and Argentina? Tendulkar lived his dream and there are millions who would pray that it happens for Messi too.
“I have seen God walk on earth. All I want now is to see Messi lifting the World Cup. I wouldn’t have any regrets in my life if I don’t watch any sport after that day. But man, Messi, should win. Think of it, what a memorable moment it would be one last time for the Albicelestes,” Deepto Roy, a Mumbai based lawyer, who is in Doha to watch the semi-finals and final told PTI.
“Being an Indian and also someone who watched that cricket World Cup final in Mumbai, Messi gives you that Sachin Tendulkar like feeling. It seems the entire world wants to see Messi lift that World Cup. We hear about fairy tales and I want to live this fairy tale on Sunday night,” Deepto said.
For Indian fans, Argentina and Diego Maradona entered their lives permanently in 1986 when Doordarshan started airing the FIFA World Cup matches from the second round. Even in those pre-internet days, when social media wasn’t even an idea, Maradona’s skills united the Bengalis, Malayalis and Goans, the three football mad states in India.
“Messi belongs to Barcelona as much as to Argentina. But there is a social context associated with the mad Argentina fandom, especially in Kolkata and Kochi. Bengalis and Malayalis are lovers of art and in Maradona, they found an artist they had never seen in their lives. There is a generation which actually watches football only once in four years but Maradona made them fall in love with Argentina football team and Messi.”
“So Messi and Argentina became a sentimental connect for many who aren’t even following Messi in PSG these days. But one must admit, as an Indian, the 2011 World Cup seemed like everything about SRT and you get the same feeling for Messi,” Dwaipayan Chatterjee, an avid club football watcher said.
Strange as it might feel, Julian Alvarez is no less a hero in Argentina’s semi-final win and that 40-metre down-the-middle run is one for the keeps. But that second goal of his won’t be talked about. He scored another goal, the third one, which will be talked about but not because of him.
And Alvarez will have to live with the fact that for once, the creator of that goal will be talked about more than the scorer.
Gvardiol is only 20 and is expected to rule the football world for at least a decade as one of the finest defenders, who can play both as a stopper as well as a lateral back (side back). Wearing a black mask to protect his fractured nose (he played with one in the World Cup), Gvardiol at times loosely resembled ‘Captain America’ with Messi’s ‘spider-man’ like skills.
Gvardiol for the better part of that sprint didn’t do anything wrong as he was technically perfect. He remained on Messi’s side, not giving him room to manoeuvre as the maestro started his stride down wide right (left of Gvardiol). He reached the side of the penalty box and then the ‘Messi Magic’ happened.
Messi in a split second turned his back on Gvardiol and with a swivel of hips and a sudden body feint beat him on a half-turn before keeping a perfect cut-back for young Alvarez. And for Melbourne based software professional Dipanjan Ghosh, it was the most “surreal feeling” to be at the stadium.
“Messi’s performance was to me what Argentina and “my team” would do in a tournament. I live in a country of fine wine. Messi is that fine wine, ageing perfectly with time,” Ghosh said.
“I will still be a supporter of Argentina after he is gone but when my eight-year-old grows up and I grow even older, I would tell him ‘Buddy, you will be richer than me, smarter than me but you can’t be luckier. You know why? I watched Lionel Messi live and play.”