Argentina have qualified for the World Cup.
I have to be honest and admit that I had absolutely no hope that Argentina would qualify for the World Cup. Having been a painful spectator of their recent games, I was almost half expecting them to lose without even putting up a fight.
I didn’t have the heart to watch the game live. I mean, how could I? As a fan, there is only so much one can endure, before you lose belief. A World Cup final and two back-to-back Copa America finals are where I drew the line. I told myself, this is it... I am not going to emotionally invest in Argentina. As an Indian, I have no predisposition to align with a certain national team. Messi was the only reason I watched Argentina and my choice was rather easy. It was convenient to watch the greatest player of all time in his prime for his club, and completely ignore the shambolic nature of his international career.
A few weeks into the qualifiers, and I was happy about my choice. While thousands of Barça fans winced at Argentina’s plight, there I sat, basking in the glory of my wonderful decision. The world was losing its mind but I was happy.
Fast-forward to last night, and I was a little tense. The possibility that Messi wouldn’t even play in the World Cup was horrifying to me. I didn’t expect him to win, but he didn’t deserve to go out like this. I wanted to watch the match; I didn’t.
The first thing I did in the morning was to check the news, and I saw it, and for that brief instant when a slow smile crept onto my face, I believed in miracles.
My heart raced.
It was like revisiting a lost lover.
I had to watch the match at that very moment, and I did.
With every touch of the ball from Messi, I saw a purpose. I saw the will to take what he was being wrongfully denied; to go against nature and seize what belonged to him. I saw a man on a mission.
With every goal, I smiled wider. It was sheer joy to watch Messi do his dance and climb over those that stood in his way.
By the time Messi scored his third, I regretted not watching the match in real time. When the referee blew his whistle on my screen, I felt a strange sense of commitment. It was like balance had been restored to the universe and finally, we could all breathe a sigh of relief.
I am a realist and very rarely believe in things. It is second nature for me to make my choices based on past events. History suggests that Messi will never win a major international trophy in his senior career. Technically, I should be discarding any notions of Messi winning anything significant with his country. However, today, I feel different.
Messi is not like the rest of them. Yes, he’s had his losses and some of them have come at a huge emotional expense for those who rooted for him. If it were anybody else, I’d have no hope. But when his back was against the wall and the chips were against him, Messi delivered.
It wasn’t just Argentina that won the match; it would have been a shame for the greatest player of all time to miss a World Cup.
This was a victory for football.
I believe in Lionel Messi.