“Messi! Messi! Messsiiiiii! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL!!!!!”
Yes folks, that’s what the commentators have gotten accustomed to shouting these days and we all know the reason why! Lionel Andrés Messi has been that exceptional phenomenon, the likes of which the football fraternity has never witnessed before. The elegance with which he controls the ball; the agility with which he moves; the surreal flair with which he dribbles; the impeccable finesse in his finishes; makes him a spectacle to marvel at! Josep Guardiola quotes: “Messi is the only player in the world who runs faster with the ball than without it!”
But did you know that his father, Jorge Messi, was a factory steel worker and his mother, Celia Cuccittini, a part-time cleaner. And of course you must know about the hormonal deficiency that he had in his childhood. No? You don’t? Well, I’m not surprised. Here’s a short narrative of the legend’s childhood…
At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father Jorge. He then moved on to Newell's Old Boys, which became part of a local youth powerhouse that lost only one match in the next four years and came to be locally known as "The Machine of '87." The boy did wonders with the ball. However, after a brief period of time, his parents realised that he wasn't growing as much as his peers around him. And at the tender age of 11 Messi was diagnosed with growth hormonal deficiency. Apparently the hormones which are responsible for growth were asleep in his body. There was a cure; although very painful and highly expensive. It wasn’t long before the family ran out of funds—they had gone to Spain for the treatment and were being battered by the exorbitant cost of the treatment. However, destiny had transpired something else for the little boy…
The scouts of FC Barcelona had received rumours about a genius footballer from Argentina. They got in touch with Messi’s father and arranged a two-week selection session for the boy. But you know what happened? In a matter of seconds of watching him play, Charly Rexach, the club's sporting director, made up his mind and wanted to sign him! And there you have the story of the famous paper napkin on which they signed a contract!
However, this popular story isn’t the thing I’m getting at—it’s his journey that has inspired me. For 8 years the boy had to take injections as part of his treatment. He used to thrust the injections into his thighs day in and day out along with his rigorous training at the club. The pain he experienced was excruciating; yet he persevered with the solidity of a diamond. Imagine putting a needle into your legs and then running for miles and miles on end, day in-day out! And doing this for 8 years of your life?! Such is the unrelenting passion and love for the game that drives this wonder boy.
The sheer magnitude of what he has overcome to become what he is today is in itself awe-inspiring. Once this momentous realization begins to dawn, you can only genuflect at the altar of The Greatest Footballer Of All Time and say, “Gracias, Leo Messi."