Messi becomes the new Maradona

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Messi becomes the new Maradona

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Cristiano Ronaldo once said in a TV interview, “The god of football has sent me to Earth, in order to show people how to play football the right way.” When Lionel Messi heard about what Ronaldo said, he looked at the ground thinking for a while, then said, “I don’t remember sending anyone.”

This popular joke displays the true legend that Messi has become, all before his 24 birthday.

As the American football season ends and basketball starts, it’s important to remember what sport the rest of the world has been watching all year. Soccer, the world’s most popular sport, receives little notice in the U.S., but if people know only one name in the sport, then it should be Lionel Messi.

Nicknamed “La Pulga,” meaning “the flea,” Messi was born in Argentina with a growth-hormone deficiency.

After observing his talent, Futbol Club Barcelona offered to pay for his treatment if he moved to Spain. He quickly moved through Barca’s C and B teams, establishing a place on the first team after scoring his first league goal at age 17.

Since his debut, Messi’s career has only skyrocketed. He plays for both Barca and the Argentine national team. Messi’s awards include FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010, the Ballon d’Or European Footballer of the Year in 2009, and the European Golden Boot in 2010.

Messi’s similarities to soccer legend, Diego Maradona, have earned him the nickname, “Messidona.” Both of similar height and ability (in Maradona’s youth), Messi is a favorite of Maradona, displayed when the young player was made captain for a few games over many experienced older players in the 2010 World Cup.

Those who follow soccer know about Maradona’s famous goal of the century and “mano de dios” handball in the 1986 Mexico World Cup. Messi has replicated both goals with stunning accuracy, fortunately showing no desire to follow his idol’s personal choices, such as drug abuse.

From the old men sitting on the streets of Buenos Aires to the young girls they whistle at, Messi’s fan base spans all ages, genders and nationalities.

This international soccer star, only 23-years-old, has captured the hearts and admiration of people around the world, including over 3 million fans on Facebook.

Aware of his popularity, Messi uses his fortune to help children through the Leo Messi Foundation. He is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

Why should Guilford students care about Messi? Apart from acknowledging his international fame and influence on the sport of soccer, there is something to be said for appreciating the arts. Soccer, when played well, is an art form, and Messi has mastered it, rivaling the greats such as Pele.

Soccer is returning to the states as the MLS season starts in a little under a month. Messi and the Argentine national team play the U.S. in New Jersey on March 26. 

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