After missing the target, Messi grabbed the hem of his white-and-blue shirt, stretched it out in frustration, then embraced his face with the palms of his hand. While the other players took their penalty kicks, Messi paced around the field refusing to witness an eventual third finals loss for the Selección.
In a matter of minutes, after Chile’s Francisco Silva hammered in the match winner, Messi went on his knees, stooped on the grass, and curled like a newborn.
Indeed, there is always the fetal position.
When critics question people who feel bad for Messi, they fail to see the guy as human. After dragging Argentina to three final matches, his countrymen still hate him for reasons he has no control over. He wasn’t born in the slums, he’s middle class, and he trained in Spain—all of which, by the way, do not make him any less Argentinian.
“Messi doesn’t play the finals to win, he plays the finals to be forgiven,” says former Argentinian football player Jorge Valdano.
And now Messi has announced his retirement from the national team. It could be temporary, an impulsive decision borne out of bursting, pulsing emotions. It could be a protest against an ineffective institution. He could always pull a Zidane and come back for another World Cup final.
Selfishness begs me to hope that his decision is indeed temporary. That one day, hopefully in Russia, I could still witness him carry an international trophy. One day, I hope he gets the forgiveness he longs for.
And when that happens, I hope the people of Argentina would joyously rally behind him, exclaiming what Jon Snow said to Lord Galbart of House Glover: