It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
–26th President of USA – Theodore Roosevelt

A 22 year old who’s name literally means “a young lion”, whose nickname owing to his light weight frame and elusive moves is ‘Flea’ is perhaps the most sort after person for the next 4 months to come – Lionel Messi!

As I woke up today at the usual unearthly hour of 4 am, I had a strange urge to go to back to Never Land, but then as I lay there on my bed somewhere I couldn’t gather up a single reason to support my urge – nah even the theory of my hair strands paining or that elusive stomach ache approaching didn’t work. Damn the migraine also… doesn’t come when I need it!

Anyways as I trudged out of the bed, the words in the book that lay before me made little sense. So there was no other alternative but to switch on the television. Laptop play list didn’t appeal to the groggy me and the FM bhakti sangeet would have made me jump out of the window, so I settled for the afore mentioned. Channel surfing landed me to a station where they were showing Tuesday’s match of Barcelona v. Arsenal and as soon as Messi came on screen, sleep flew out of the window. How much I studied today with a Messi blazing the screen, aah let’s leave that aside please – all that one needs to know is that Lord Krishna needs to abstain a little longer before I serve him brinjals cooked better than Panchali!

Leading the Champions league with 25 goals is no joke, leading the Spanish league with 26 goals (out of 27 matches) is not a fluke either. But then why is it that I sitting here in this city where football leadings to mass killings, is surrounded by people who do not appreciate this form? Why is it that people are doubtful that Messi wouldn’t prove to be the messiah, which Argentina needs and has found in Maradona in 1986! Why go any further, Maradona himself is not confident of Messi and so when people say that they think Messi has a dual one, one at the club/state level games and the other at the national level games, he merely accedes.

But then personally I feel that there is no duality in that 22-year-old cub, but in fact there’s a lack of understanding of his game. One look at any Barcelona match and you would understand how much he loves to dribble and play a possession centric game. He’s like natural when he sticks to this game plan. But then on the ground for Argentina I feel Maradona’s strategy for counter attack confuses him. It takes away the natural flair he has for the game. He doesn’t perform, the media criticizes his game and this leads him to doom. I understand the it is this approach of this that doesn’t make him suited for the English League and that a good player should know to adopt and also that South Americans have been used to counter attacks just like England.. but then he’s a young cub… a new league on his own!!! Why do we expect him to perform just the way all his baton hand downs have down???

To me this is exactly like a situation where the painter’s child draws well and hence his parents think he can be a great painter. His sketches adorn walls but then his father tells him to paint on huge canvases with oils and there when he doesn’t succeed it is said to be a child prodigy, which is lost. Did the father ever wonder that colors were not for the child? That charcoal and lead was all that he needed to be a best seller?

Maradona as the dad of the team does exactly that!

But then again does Maradona understand himself? Undoubtedly the best player which Argentina has had till date, one of the most gifted footballers of all sides, but then again isn’t to be a good player and to be a good coach two different things altogether? It is a fact that Maradona does not have any formal coaching experience. His leading Racing and Mandiyu back in the 1990s, with a record of three wins, 12 draws and eight defeats in total, cannot be quoted to counter this fact. But then again he will not agree to that and neither to the fact that it is his wrong approach that is driving Messi to mess and Argentina to stagnate.

Revered all over the world, he’s perhaps one of the few guys who make me wish that I was born a bit later and in his neighborhood so that my childhood mud games could have led to something constructive… it hurts me when the media says that he’s more a Catalan, who does not have any pride in wearing the Argentine tee. It hurts me more when they take his silence to be his weakness and shyness.

Don’t you feel that somewhere the constant criticism adds on to the negative fervor as he steps on to play on the field where the basic game set up is also not his forte.

This is not unnatural in the sport’s world. Sachin faced this in India when he was expected to lead and also bat. But guess then when he screamed out loud through words and action the difference between playing and leading they left hi alone. Miki Ando, once revered on skates in Japan is perhaps a name you’ll never hear now. After they ganged up against her in view of her plunging international performances, she slowly faded away from the national scene too.

So if Messi is to rise or rather in the words of the American poet Arthur Guiterman build a a monument out of the stones that are hurled towards him – more than self girth, he needs Maradona to just step aside and let him play freely his natural game. Maybe a bit from flexibility from either side will do them both good… probably make Maradona appreciate the ‘dribble’ and Messi appreciate the ‘asthetic’ game plan!

If the boy dribbles Sir, please let him do so…. You were you.. he’s he… please appreciate that … we want a nice world cup and want Argentina to put up a good fight and for that you need Messi to perform else it’ll be a Messy affair and you shall again be singing “Don’t cry for me Argentina….”!!!

P.S.: Images courtsey –