Why so many supported Argentina in World Cup final

“This is my first time backing Argentina in a football match,” declared a Thai football fan. Coming from a Brazil supporter, who loves France’s Thierry Henry and Olivier Giroud to bits, the statement carried significant weight. It was by no means a random case, though.

Much of the world turned white and blue last Sunday, and reigning champions France found themselves playing an infamous role of a potential party crasher. Argentina divided opinions, but if the only way for Lionel Messi to get what he deserved was for his country to beat France in the World Cup final, then so be it.

He was the biggest reason why some Britons decided to bury Falkland and the “Hand of God”, why many in the Netherlands set aside the 1978 World Cup final heartbreak, and why other haters, enviers or dissenters of Argentinian football granted themselves temporary exemption.

Messi’s greatness is being revisited, retold and re–watched, thanks largely to the social media that were not there when his compatriot Diego Maradona and Brazil’s legend Pele mesmerized the world. To put Messi’s achievements in a simple perspective, his heir Kylian Mbappe, 23, will roughly have to score 50 goals every year for club and country until he reaches the age of 33 to rival the older man’s record. And that is assuming that Messi, who has vowed to play on at the highest level, will stop scoring completely from now on.

Here’s another perspective. This year, Mbappe has had 55 goals in 55 games and another young sensation Erling Braut Haaland has scored 42 in 40. (Haaland’s Carabao Cup goal this week not included.) They are two beasts at their prime who are enthusing the whole world. Yet if we added their numbers together, it goes up to 97 goals in 95 games, which made the 91 goals in 69 games Messi scored in 2012 pretty glaring.

Many great footballers overcame rough childhood and had to fight against all odds. Messi was no different. When he was around 11, his family noticed that even though he was playing among other children pretty much his age, he was always the smallest on the pitch. Despite the unrivalled skills, pace and no matter how hard he hit the ball, he was to be diagnosed with a growth disorder.

Homecoming parade for the Argentine soccer team that won the World Cup tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (Photo by Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Subsequently, he had to be injected with hormones every night to deal with the growth hormone deficiency (GHD) which was impairing growth and some other development. It was not a cheap treatment and his family was struggling. Then Barcelona came to the rescue, welcoming him to its academy and sponsoring the medication costs.

As a professional footballer, he has always been humble and stayed away from controversies. To a big extent, that helped bridge the South America-Europe football divide. By that, a lot of Europeans still wanted France to win the World Cup to keep the trophy on the continent, but many others wouldn’t mind that much if “Messi’s Argentina” won it.

It was 36 years since Argentina had won its last World Cup in 1986. It was also two decades since a South American nation, Brazil, had won it. In an online post, Brazil’s legend Ronaldo said that in spite of the deep-rooted football rivalry between his country and Argentina, he would love to see Messi bringing it “home.”

More proof of Messi diluting the South America-Europe World Cup bad blood exists online. His photo gallery showcasing the trophy has become the most-liked Instagram post ever, easily brushing aside the reigning champion which took about three years to gather more than 57 million likes.

Messi’s images, which show him and other Argentina players celebrating their 2022 World Cup win, have racked up over 67 million likes (and counting) on the social media platform within hours of being posted. Before that, the most-liked photo on Instagram was that of an ordinary brown egg, which was posted in 2019 as a purposeful campaign to set a “like” record. If every single Argentinian “liked” his Instagram post, it would be just over 45 million.

The number of people on the Argentinian streets and squares must have been one of the biggest human congregations in history, massively surpassing any political gathering anywhere and anytime. But what took place outside Argentina before, during and after the World Cup final speaks greater volumes.

And the man at the centre of it all is Lionel Messi.He made the world celebrate football the way it should be celebrated _ one that appreciates and recognizes genuine talent without the limits of national and international boundaries.

By Tulsathit Taptim


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