10/09/2021 at 08:00 CEST
The Argentine team returns to the Monumental this week and everything suggests that the love affair will be renewed with the people who were reborn after the conquest of the Copa América (1 to 0 to Brazil in the Maracana), but also, and above all, the strengthened bond that now exists between the fan and Lionel Messi.
It is very curious to analyze the evolution that the relationship – until then difficult, at some point perverse and undoubtedly inexplicable – has had in this last year between the best player on the planet and the public of his native country. That latent malaise, that look that held a permanent suspicion, those more or less merciless criticisms after premature or final eliminations lost, those accusations of “bitter & rdquor;, “Cold chest & rdquor; or not singing the anthem before games, they almost magically evaporated.
The strange thing is that the conquest of the America’s Cup that ended with 28 years of frustrations was not what worked the “miracle”. That title did nothing more than ratify something that had already been brewing.
If a date had to be set at the time of the start of this transformation, it might be November 29, 2020. Four days earlier, Maradona had died in Buenos Aires, and that afternoon at the Camp Nou, Messi scored against Osasuna, he took off his Barça shirt and underneath it had the Newell’s shirt that Diego had once used in his brief stint at the club where Leo began his history.
His gesture was much more than a tribute to the greatest idol of the Argentines. It was a reconciliation, the laying of a bridge between the past and the present, the launching of a lifeline for a soccer-sick country that had just suffered the loss of an icon that it believed to be immortal.
Shade of Fluff
The shadow of Maradona flew over Messi throughout his career and only the physical disappearance of one allowed him to look at the other with different eyes. The image of Leo throwing a kiss to the sky dressed in the red and black coat of ‘the lepers’ from Rosario was at that moment a balm for the parishioners who cried inconsolably to their God, and aroused a current of affection until then non-existent between a good part of the Argentine fans and the former captain of Barça.
Even without the presence of the public in the stadiums, that current of love only grew. In his statements, in his unknown rebellion, already shown previously in the Copa América 2019, Messi was gaining points in the hearts of his compatriots, giving conclusive evidence of an Argentineanness that he had always shown but that many had not wanted to see.
Perhaps, because passionate as he is, the albiceleste fan was unable to live with two idols at the same time and Diego had to die to completely open his soul to the new Messiah. Perhaps, because in fear of being abandoned by the football gods, he embraced the only player who could fill the existential void open at his feet.
The human group that Lionel Scaloni knew how to assemble in the selection completed the perfect cocktail. The new generation that make up the De Paul, Paredes, Lautaro Martínez and company quickly understood that their goal was to do the impossible to give Messi the title that he lacked and that he longed for more than anything else, as he would demonstrate with his tears so much in the Maracana on the night of the consecration as in the Monumental when finishing 3-0 against Bolivia (with hat-trick of 10 included) that marked the return of the people to the stands and staged the final reconciliation.
With the qualification to Qatar 2022 well under way, a team that has 23 games without losing (no other team in the world today surpasses Argentina in that regard) and a dressing room that recognizes it as a leader and captain to the point of dedicating that elusive Cup won in Rio de Janeiro without hesitation, Messi returns to Buenos Aires with another spirit. Uruguay await you on Sunday and Peru on Thursday.