sCorrientes is the avenue of theaters in Buenos Aires. On Saturday night, a crowd gathered in front of the Lola Membrives. When the situation threatened to get out of control, the giant screen promoting a new function of tootsie it turned off suddenly. When she came on a few seconds later she had a legend in big white letters: “Messi is not in the theater.” The rumor had circulated that the Argentine player was among the spectators and there was the spontaneous horde that for a week has been chasing the idol throughout the capital. The same ones who, until obtaining the Copa America, in 2021, called Messi “cold chest”, now idolize him without nuances. At 35, Messi is finally an idol of the masses in his land.
The “cold-chested” player is the one who doesn’t sweat his shirt, a sleepwalker who goes out onto the field just for money, without passion for colors or hunger for glory. The Argentine fans did not forgive that Messi did not repeat the magic that he displayed in Barcelona with the light blue and white. In 2018, after losing his third consecutive final (one in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the other two against Chile in the Copa America), Messi regretted in an interview that the efforts of the players were not recognized. “In any other country in the world, a team that reaches three finals in a row would be valued, but not us. Here they call us shitty or cold chest “, he complained in an interview with TyC Sport. The failure, that same year, in Russia, only deepened the rift between the player and the Argentine fans. In the stadiums they sang “Maradona, Maradona” and on television sets the journalists ranted against the player who did not sing the national anthem or walk on the playing field.
As of 2021, everything changed. Argentina first won the Copa America against Brazil at the Maracana, then the Finalissima against Italy and, finally, the World Cup against France in Qatar. Messi had finally neutralized the spell and nobody dared to compare him with Maradona anymore. Last Thursday, 85,000 people cheered him on the River Plate field in a tribute match against Panama. Almost two million people had tried to get tickets, without success. Messi took the microphone and spoke to the crowd. He returned, as in that 2018 interview, to ask for the companions who had remained on the road. “We are celebrating the champions,” he said, “but I don’t want to forget all the teammates who passed by and who were also very close. They deserve everyone’s respect and recognition too. Let’s enjoy this because we had a long time to win it again”.
Unlike previous trips, Messi did not take refuge in Rosario, his city, and stayed in Buenos Aires. He showed up with friends and dined alone with Antonella Rocuzzo; he went dancing with his teammates and greeted the fans with a smile. On the streets of Buenos Aires, Messi was more the teenager who suddenly discovers the pleasure of fame than the veteran who is fed up with it. He signed autographs without a word and even rolled down his truck window to greet a family who had recognized him on the freeway. On Sunday, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) named Lionel Andres Messi a new sports complex at its headquarters in Ezeiza, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. And on Monday he flew to the Conmebol headquarters in Asuncion del Paraguay for a new tribute. This Tuesday the light blue and white will be put on again for the match against Curacao, in Santiago del Estero (north), the last stop of a procession dedicated to the idol.
The capital of the province of Santiago del Estero is small and its inhabitants are among the poorest in the country. Its stadium, the Madre de Ciudades, is, due to those inexplicable turns that Argentine soccer has, one of the most modern in the country. But the AFA considered that it was too small for the Albiceleste party against Curacao and removed part of the seats to expand its capacity from 30,000 to 42,000 people. It was of little use. As in the match against Panama, the tickets sold out in just over an hour.
Soccer will be the least of the Argentine night. There will be a party and the possibility of breaking several milestones. If they win, the Albiceleste will reach the first place in the FIFA ranking as simultaneous champion of three cups, a mark that only Brazil and France had. It will also be a special game for Messi: if he scores, he will reach 100 goals with his country’s shirt.
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Source: EL PAIS