2018 FIFA WC: Do you know why Messi had to carry the burden of Argentina’s failure? A postmortem

Anilava Chatterjee, Moscow: Right from the afternoon, a melancholy mood engulfs the Moscow sky and by the evening, it started raining. Due to the down pour, the FIFA fan fest was shut down. The fans of this very city wearing the white and the sky-blue jerseys are completely lost and shattered into pieces. I was able to perceive the situation in Kazan. Under severe tension, anxiety overruled the dream of thousands of Argentine supporters who have gathered together. This is exactly what Messi and Co’s theme was in this year’s World Cup -“Together for the dream”. The team was built to chase the dream.  The dream was actually for the thousands and thousands of fans who believe in Argentina.

In this city when the night creeps in, couples are seen having a wonderful time in the metro tunnel, embracing their love with kisses. Random pedestrians stop by to listen to the soothing tune instrumented by the violinist or even by the guitarist and the colourful pubs of the stretch long footpath, comes to life. The crowd intensifies in the metro. The busy trespassing of the visitors in red, blue, yellow and white jerseys keeps the night young and longer. Trust me, today was some day. I was returning from Red square where I saw in the metro escalator and in the compartment a handful of people, where their face have turned pale. They all may not be Argentine or Portuguese but everyone knows that the light of excitement suddenly went off in a flash in just one night.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t always have to prove that he is the best in his country. He’s talent is not scaled to that of Eusebio or Luis Figo. But for the past 15 years Lionel Messi has been hearing the same question over and over again. You can’t be named as a great footballer if you don’t win the World Cup ! Before the start of every World Cup, it has been beaten like drum rolls in Messi’s ear that he can never be Diego Maradona if he doesn’t win the World Cup. Inspite of that in the past 15 years, the way he has taken Argentine football, the way he has carried the flag above everyone, I personally don’t think anyone has contributed much like he has done. But still he has been slammed heavily. He has been the victim of numerous trolls, even though he didn’t have much to do.

The reason behind Argentina’s failure is widespread. Winning and losing, success and failure are all part of the game, but it becomes more dangerous when it changes the entire footballing complexion of a country. The 86′ Argentina we knew and this Argentina are not all same. The football culture has totally evolved. That day, I was having a chat with Argentina’s football journalist, Sergio. He said, “The 86′ World Cup triumph has not only brought joy to all the Argentines but at the same time it affected us a lot. That style of coaching is not what we Argentines do”. He continued, “Even though after the 86′ triumph, coaches started to opt for that particular defensive style of football. Our own style was replaced from that day onwards”.

He also talked about another match. Argentina’s 6-1 defeat in the hands of Czechoslovakia in the 1958 World Cup. He said, “We were new to the World cup. Conceding 6 goals against Czechoslovakia forced us to think for a big change. We got over from our own Latin American, one-touch football and started to adopt to the European style of football”. That particular Argentina were crowned twice as World Champions in 2 decades. But today’s Argentina is completely lost, where your number one striker, Higuain, who’s first touch is as dreadful as it can be. Recently, Jorge Valdona started penning about Argentine football for a tabloid. It’s obvious that it will hurt their self-respect. At one time Valdano made his country World Champions by scoring a goal in the final. He wrote, “Our footballers were shaped in the streets. Street football was once a very big teacher. In today’s time we don’t get to see that kind of football. We lack that experience, professionalism and mentality in producing rich supplies of talents, like Spain and Germany. So in either way we are kind of done”. He blames the entire country’s infrastructure for this. He goes on, “Once our countrymen used to flock in numbers to the stadium, just to hear the ‘Ole Ole’ chants. That One good pass, that one spell bounding dribbling and that swift one to one movement, all made us go Ole ! But now the football is somewhat all about winning and nothing else. People just want to win by hook or by crook. The winner and loser occupies different positions in this world. This somehow made us demean our values. We came out from our own-selves. The value of a talent has gone down increasing the value of mediocrity.

Immediately it changed the country’s cultural and economic structure. Nowadays if you score 3 goals, you’ll be offered a handsome sum of money from any European clubs. This is how we cemented mediocrity in Argentine football.” Valdona was not entirely wrong of what he said. By looking at the Argentine team, you’ll get to see how lost they seem. After Maradona stepped down as the national coach back in 2010, Argentina have hired 5 coaches in a matter of 8 years. Whereas from 1978 to 2010, before Maradona took in charge, only 8 coaches have made way in a period 26 years. The one who was hired this time around, it seemed he had no idea  whatsoever of his job ! He took in charge of the team back in May, 2017. In that period of time he has made play as many as 59 footballers. He never stick to the same squad. He even faltered in the World cup as well. Every match there is a new team, new strategy. The kind of players he brought with him are not even regulars in their own respective clubs. Let’s say about Caballero, who was literally trembling between the sticks against Croatia, is actually Chelsea’s reserve bench player. Even Manchester United’s Rojo spends most of his time sitting out on the bench. 32 year old Enzo Perez, hesitates while playing for River Plate. Mascherano comes from Chinese football. Even though there are few who have performed really well in the European circuit. Fiorentina’s German Pezzella is one of the best defenders of Serie A. Same goes for Ezequiel Garay. But it didn’t not have Sampaoli’s attention. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference even if these players were in the squad. A country’s football who has itself lost it’s way in the process, how can you expect them to enlighten the entire world ?

Will Argentina change? Or maybe just like everytime they’ll get away by pointing the blame towards Messi. Messi is yet to reveal about his future in international football. But what if he does wishes to retire, will that be a good decision? For how long does he has to suffer from this utter disgrace of a system ! Just before the World cup the Argentine football association issued manuals in regard to the footballers. Where it was written that how to guide Russian girls right to your bed. It was utter chaos all around when the manual got issued. Later on the officials of the federation asked for their apology, keeping in mind that it might hurt Russian sentiments. But who will ask for forgiveness of Argentina’s poor run on Russian soil? Who will ask for forgiveness to  stab the hearts of thousands of football lovers of Argentina ?

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