'Messi'ah of Millions: Indian fans wait for Messi's '2011 Tendulkar moment'

In his fifth and last World Cup, Messi, just like Tendulkar in his sixth and final appearance at the final frontier of one-day cricket, must be craving to lay his hands on the trophy.

Published: 14th December 2022 08:05 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th December 2022 08:05 PM   |  A+A-


Argentina's Lionel Messi in action in front of Croatia's Josko Gvardiol during the World Cup semifinal match between Argentina and Croatia at the Lusail Stadium. (Photo | AP)


NEW DELHI: When Lionel Messi, with his moist eyes, stares towards nothingness, he can stop the world around you. When he gets agitated and argues with a referee, you too get angry.

And when you see him running circles around the best in the world and then making them chase shadows -- as he did with defender Josko Gvardiol on Tuesday night in Doha -- the world appears to be magical.

Maybe that's why you want him so badly to win the elusive Holy Grail of football, just as you yearned for Sachin Tendulkar to win the cricket World Cup, which eluded him five times until 2011 in Mumbai.

You can win every trophy in the world but FIFA World Cup is special.

Pele touched it thrice, and Maradona too got a chance to caress the hands that held the 'Golden Globe'. And If Messi now misses this chance, it would be a chapter unfinished in pages of football history.

In his fifth and last World Cup, Messi, just like Tendulkar in his sixth and final appearance at the final frontier of one-day cricket, must be craving to lay his hands on the trophy. Can Sunday bring that Tendulkar moment for Messi and Argentina? Tendulkar lived his dream and there are millions in India who would pray that it happens for Messi too.

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"I have seen God walk on earth. All I want now is to see Messi lift the World Cup. I wouldn't have any regrets in my life if I don't watch any sport after that day. But Man, Messi, should win. Think of it. What a memorable moment it would be one last time for the Albicelestes," Deepto Roy, a Mumbai-based lawyer, who is in Doha to watch the semi-finals and final, told PTI.

"Being an Indian and also someone who watched that cricket World Cup final in Mumbai, Messi gives you that Sachin Tendulkar-like feeling," he said in a telephone interview.

"It seems the entire world wants to see Messi lift that World Cup. We hear about fairy tales and I want to live this fairy tale on Sunday night," Deepto said.

For Indian fans, Argentina and Diego Maradona entered their lives permanently in 1986 when Doordarshan started airing the FIFA World Cup matches from the second round.

Even in those pre-Internet days when social media wasn't even an idea, Maradona's skills united the Bengalis, the Malayalis and the Goans, the three football-mad people of India.

ALSO READ | FIFA World Cup: All for the love of Messi!

"Messi belongs to Barcelona as much as to Argentina. But there is a social context associated with the mad Argentina fandom, especially in Kolkata and Kochi. Bengalis and Malayalis are lovers of art and in Maradona, they found an artist they had never seen in their lives," said Dwaipayan Chatterjee, an avid club football fan.

"There is a generation which actually watches football only once in four years but Maradona made them fall in love with the Argentina football team and Messi. So Messi and Argentina became a sentimental connection for many who aren't even following Messi in PSG these days. But one must admit, as an Indian, the 2011 World Cup seemed like everything about SRT and you get the same feeling for Messi," said Chatterjee.

For Dipanjan Ghosh, a Melbourne-based software professional, watching the third goal by Argentina in the semifinal against Croatia, was the most "surreal feeling" to be at the stadium.

Although the goal was scored by Julian Alvarez, fans will remember it for the way it was set up by Messi through his 40-metre sprint and by ultimately outwitting master defender Gvardiol.

"Messi's performance was to me what Argentina and "my team" would do in a tournament. I live in a country of fine wine. Messi is that fine wine, ageing perfectly with time," Ghosh said.

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Wearing a black mask to protect his fractured nose, the 20-year-old Gvardiol at times loosely resembled 'Captain America' next to Spiderman Messi. Gvardiol for the better part of that sprint didn't do anything wrong as he was technically perfect. He remained on Messi's side not giving him room to manoeuvre as the maestro started his stride down wide right (left of Gvardiol).

He reached the side of the penalty box and then the 'Messi Magic' happened. One that is joie de vivre and orgasmic.

Messi in a split second turned his back on Gvardiol and with a swivel of hips and a sudden body feint beat him on a half-turn before keeping a perfect cut-back for young Alvarez to deal the Coup de Grace.

"I will still be a supporter of Argentina after he is gone but when my eight-year-old grows up and I grow even older, I would tell him 'Buddy, you will be richer than me, smarter than me but you can't be luckier. Do you know why? I watched Lionel Messi live and play."


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