Today was a sad day for any genuine football fan. Messi retired from Argentina’s national side. He is probably the greatest player that the sport has seen (and I am not going to get into debates about possible contenders) and anyone who genuinely cares about the sport will take this news like a punch in the face.

I had lost my starry-eyed adulation for Messi some time back. Seeing his “magic” was becoming something of a rarity as his performance was dipping and teams were learning how to counter him on the field. On top of it, I think he is a gigantic presence in any team that he plays, be it Barcelona or Argentina. This gives the team a single point of failure. If Messi shines, the team shines; if Messi does not, a team that could have managed it without him, flounders. But having said all that, I do not mean to take away anything from him. He is a superb footballer. He is the most talented one that the game has seen. BUT he is also human.

A nation that he has been trying to get a cup for, does not stand beside him. It burdens him with a pressure that is scary to think of. You look at the Argentine team and you see stars of the highest order. And it is not like they let their superstar ego get in the way. No. Sergio Aguero played as a dying minute sub. A player of his stature did it willingly to see his national team end the 23 year old draught of silverware. And they could not have been better positioned than this year. Everything was going well. They were scoring and winning. Their leader was in top form. He had 4 assists and 5 goals in 4 matches in the this Copa. But right before the finals the frustration seemed evident.

I feel like Messi is a man who is trying desperately to swim against the current. He would like to get his nation’s love and to win for them but the country is too critical about him. He left for Barcelona for a reason but the reason is lost on the country. They just see a deserter who fails to deliver time and again. The leader of the hunting pack is an old man who claims to be their greatest but is constantly shitting his pants for the feat that he will be displaced.

Before Sunday’s match, Argentina football legend Diego Maradona said that the team should not bother coming home if they lose. [1]

I feel sorry for Messi. No person should have to fight against all this. Nothing is worth all this shit. Right now he might seem like a sore loser but I think he would have retired even if they had won. He just wanted to prove a point and it is becoming more and more difficult for him to do so. Football is not a one man game. Even with the greatest team in the world, you cannot win if you don’t have a functional support system. This includes fans and supporters as well. And it is not just Messi. Higuain was the top scorer in Serie A this season but is still mocked in his country. That’s harsh to say the least.

messi-back Hurts to see the big man fall [2]

I think Messi is right in leaving the national team, as would be others who are planning to do the same. They deserve better than this. A player who is at the top of his form like Messi is right now can accomplish so much more if he is allowed to. He should concentrate on his football and let a old fat man revel in his life’s high point till the day he dies. Let the nation that resounds his opinion rot with him. Football is more than a country.

[1] [2] from BBC

Cover image from indianexpress.