The Messiah. The Little Genius. The Flea. Names are many for this phenomenon from Nou Camp, Lionel Andres Messi. As a Madridista, when you are prompted to write on a rival player you admire the most, you will have no choice but to write about the best player of your eternal rivals, who just happens to be the best player in the history of the game. Now, my friends, please don’t get me wrong, and before you go all Goswami on me, let me make this clear. Cristiano Ronaldo was, is, and will be my most favourite footballer, the reasons for which will be kept aside for another piece of paper.
I was about 14 years old when I got really close to the ‘beautiful game’. The name Lionel Messi was already a stock term in the soccer circles by then. In a classroom full of fanboys, it was inevitable for me to have to pick between the iconic blue&red and the royal white. The moment I chose Madrid, little did I know the kind of influence this 5’7” guy would be having over my fanboy life. Just like any other Madrid fan, I followed the norm, to keep track of the games of Barcelona and Lionel Messi, sometimes a bit more eagerly than I would like to admit. Even while my hopes rested on the unlucky side of Barcelona, seldom did they come true, thanks to this little genius from Rosario.
The effortlessness with which he manipulates the ball, nay, the entire field, that wry smile after those cheeky curlers, and the humility mixed with the tinge of that signature shyness often left my emotions confused, to choose between disappointment, awe, envy, or admiration. From vaguely following Barcelona to watching their game on a regular basis, all thanks to Leo, marked my evolution from a hardcore Madridista to a football fan. I could not believe it when I found myself tearing up at his bad moments, from the 2014 World Cup final to the recent interview after the row with the club management. While the Madridista in me prayed for him to lose every single game he plays, it broke my heart to see him with his head bent down.
But if you know Messi well enough as I do, you will know better than to stay sad and worried about him. He is the Messiah. He is bound to rise. Hopefully, not in your home ground.
So yeah. Love him, hate him, can’t ignore him.
Lionel Andres Messi for you.
This article is first in the series ‘Love Them, Hate Them, Can’t Ignore Them- What I admire most about my rivals’ by our readers. To get your perspective published, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.