It was Ramzan of 2014. Hardly 3-months old, M. was in my lap, facing me, and I was watching the game. The defense of Iran was too stubborn, and Argentina was unable to break-in. And then, Messi happened. It was a goal with Messi striking a curve from outside the box, and the ball following the divine order, cracking the wall. All the 11 players of Iran – in a single picture – could be seen watching the ball go in.
I took a picture in that moment of pure joy. A little blurred and unclear, but majestic. I was shivering with excitement. She was laughing. And Messi was celebrating.
One by one the opponents were defeated. Mostly with a goal’s lead.
Then came the final. I remember Higuain’s chance to make history, but he failed. Not once. The assists were perfect, but he couldn’t make it. Before the final whistle came a free kick with Messi getting ready to shoot. I remember putting all my energy in that one, but it went way up and into the crowd.
With the final whistle, it wasn’t only the game that stopped. Beats were missed. Hearts were broken. It all went down. Devastation.
It’s not about Argentina. It’s not about the game itself. It’s personal. My decade long journey of football up to this lifting of the trophy by Messi – is personal.
Apart from La Liga and UCL, I quit watching international games. I knew it was over because it was relatable. Once a failure in such a crucial stage remains a failure forever. 2018 was not even followed properly. There was no hope even when Maradona was cheering from the stands. Doesn’t matter. Relatable.
Then came 2022 with Messi already in the lower performing strata. Ballon d’Or went to Benzema and overall statistics did not look promising enough. But there was something in the air around the Arab world. It felt that the desert was in the mood to complete the finest script in the finest way.
A script where Gvardiol becomes a hero after losing to the greatest of all times.
The match against Saudi Arabia was a perfect start. A perfect way to the destination onwards. It felt so perfect that there were no bad feelings after the loss. In fact, it looked like a perfect prologue.
One by one, the script went wild. With strange outcomes. Incredible upsets. Rise of Morocco. Fall of all the other giant players in the arena. One by one. The assists became assists from unimaginable angles. Playmaking became unplayable for the opponents. The script became incredulous by the finals. As crazy as Di Maria scoring and running and crying.
We didn’t get it in 2014 and 2018. It was supposed to be a perfect ending like this. A World Cup win in 2014 would have been midway through the career. Now, it’s a flawless epilogue. Final nail to immortality. Where to compare this? The epilogue of Tolstoy’s War & Peace? The Count of Monte Cristo of Dumas? The final touch on Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci? The moonwalk of Michael Jackson? Or the final presentation of Steve Jobs like let me introduce you to the most beautiful and artistic intervention of mankind on your screens? Or the 108th minute goal by Lionel Messi in the World Cup Final?
Up to you. It can be a debate of GOATs for you, which is not even debatable. Or it can be scratching the past events for comparative analysis, which is not even comparable.
It is about a person who never glorified himself. Never competed for himself. Never made himself bigger than others. Because he knew how he landed in the fields of Barcelona long ago from Rosario with all the disadvantages in his biological fate.
It’s personal. A story of hope. A story of a little man dribbling among tall boys defying their masculine powers and snatching the earth beneath their feet. Defying odds. Defying powers. Defying rules. Defying the whole game. And becoming immortal.
Too good. Too good to believe. Too refreshing to inhale. Too peaceful to sleep. Too beautiful to wake up to. Because if this can happen. M. can happen too. Relatable?
And it’s everything.