The Day I watched Messi
It was a typical summer evening. I got through my daily grind and settled into my lair, and put on some Pink Floyd. My school Whatsapp group was abuzz, and I was going through my nightly routine of catching up with my mates. One of them happened to send a picture of Lionel Messi training in the UIC campus.
“ Wait, Rohit, don’t you stay close to Chicago? Why aren’t you going to the game?”, exclaimed my friend. I gave the lame excuse of being busy. How can one be too busy to watch the best player on the planet?
Now, I knew Argentina was playing and this would be my best opportunity to watch the best footballer in the world. But, it was a time when I valued money more than memories and somehow managed to convince myself that IT WASN’T WORTH IT.
Now, things were different.I place greater value in living in the moment and right then I knew that I had to go. I immediately got on the web to check if there were any seats available. To my surprise, there were about 1000 tickets unsold.
I got on it right away, had my credit card out and 5 minutes later was in possession of a round-trip bus ticket to Chicago and front-row grandstand seat to the game.
I barely got any sleep that night; courtesy of my ever-increasing excitement. That 3.5 hour bus ride to Chicago seemed to be going on forever. The boring parts always seem to take the longest. But, I was finally there. The city was abuzz with football/Messi fanatics donning their jerseys and walking towards Soldier Field.
It was 7.30 PM by the time I got to my seat.
18 hours of rushing and running around later, I took a deep breath and soaked it all in. The atmosphere was electric. Thousands of fans trickling into Chicago’s magnificent arena.
When the Argentinian line-ups were announced and the players came out to warm-up, a heave of disappointment swept through.
Messi was on the bench and it was unsure if he would play any part.
I tried to mask my disappointment and focus on the positive.
There I was standing with a perfect view. Looking down at these footballing gems warm-up for an international game. The occasion was big and I remained optimistic that god would make an appearance at some stage.
8.30 pm — After a rousing rendition of both the Argentinian and Panama anthems, it was finally time for kick-off. Argentina possessed stars likes Di Maria, Higuain, Mascherano in the starting line-up but everyone’s focus including the camera mans was on Lionel Messi. He was a picture of calm as he looked on at his team-mates.
When Argentina took a lead in the first 10 minutes and Panama had a player sent-off later in the half, everyone feared the worst. Argentina would cruise to a victory and the coach would not risk playing Leo.
But, to Peru’s credit and everyone’s delight, they put in an endearing performance to go into the break 1–0 down.
They came out fighting in the second-half and were creating chances and causing trouble to the Argentina defence.
This prompted the manager to send his substitutes to warm-up. Now, this was an important game in the group and its result was important in determining who progressed. But, none of this mattered, everyone’s eyes were glued to Messi and his warm-up. Every movement of his was greeted with a breath of excitement and awe.
There were 58 thousand Messi Stalkers.
15 mins into the 2nd Half, it finally happened. The coach sent the message to his assistant and he went onto withdraw Messi from his warm-up. It was time!
The stadium erupted in cheers as Messi stripped down his training gear and donned his Argentina colours. Cheers grew louder and louder as the on-field player came off to tag in Messi.
When he finally walked onto the pitch, i felt this single emotion of gratitude. Gratitude for having this opportunity to watch the footballing god.
Up until here I following the game as a whole and looking at each players movements and tactically breakdown each teams play.
But once Messi was on it was all about him. With-or-without the ball, he was the centre of my undeterred attention.
And then, 8 mins into his cameo, he did something that I’ve seen him do hundreds of times on TV. Something that I never imagined i’d be able to see for real.
He was in on goal. I remember thinking, just let him score and this day would be perfect. 2 seconds later, he didn’t disappoint. He curved the ball into the bottom left corner in typical fashion and the whole stadium jumped in elation.
I don’t remember screaming that loud ever in my life!
When I look back on it, I am glad that my phone died. It meant that I could take it all in and live the moment. It was something I would hold-onto forever — I’d watched Lionel Messi Score.
Time passed, Messi continued mesmerizing everyone. For a fleeting my moment my mind wandered and thought, how great would it be if he scored a free-kick. Not 2 mins later, Argentina had a free-kick in perfect striking range.
I stood right behind as Messi stared at the ball and the goal. And with one swift swerve of the heavenly left-foot, he placed the ball in the top right corner. A Messi Brace! I’d seen it! I screamed and jumped with all-conquering emotion.
If I did have a real bucket-list, this is what i’d checked off in 12 hours.
Watch Lionel Messi
Watch him score
Watch him score 2 goals
What was next? Surely he wouldn’t score a hat-trick. Surely not. But, it was my day and of course it was Messi’s.
After cleverly getting into the box and showing immense strength to hold off the defender, he finished into the same corner as his 1st goal and ran off to celebrate.
This time, I didn’t jump. I looked at god-Messi, and thanked him for putting me there.
The emotion of the moment and what i’d just witnessed was overwhelming and I made sure I walked back to catch the bus home.It was 2.5 miles away and gave me plenty of time to pinch and double-pinch myself.
Did I just watch Lionel Messi? I did. And I watched him score a hat-trick. There is no better joy than watching your sporting idol and I watched him deliver one of his best performances.
I texted all of my friends stating that i’d witnessed god, and god scored a hat-trick! It took me 3 days to finally calm-down and realize that I wasn’t in the stadium anymore and I’m sure everyone who was there that night felt the same.
So, on eve of his 28th Birthday, I would like to thank him for giving me something to hold onto, something that I will never let go.
Happy Birthday Leo.