Being an ardent soccer fan, I like all the variety of styles that the great game is played with. Be it the fast and furious style of my favourite club Manchester United, or the subtle and sweet style of play displayed by the recent UEFA champions Barcelona. Also, I love it when one man single-handedly turns the match on, like Diego Maradona used to do in the 1980s.
So, with all the hype that was built by the Indian media over the Argentina vs Venezeula match, I was waiting to see the current little master of world football — Lionel Messi — set the Salt Lake Stadium on fire on Friday night. I was following any medium for any piece of information on my favourite team and my favourite player. Just to see this match I rushed back from office, drove madly on the crammed streets of Delhi and abused at least 10-15 fellow drivers on my way back — such was my excitement towards this match.
But to say the least I was disappointed with the quality of football exhibited by Argentina. I mean, it felt like as if they were playing against the current Spanish or the in-form Brazilian team while in actuality they were facing an average team — almost the minnows of world football (of course, discounting countries like India!). Yes, Argentina did win the match with a solitary goal, but is that what everyone expected from this team? We expected the win yes, but certainly not the scoreline.
The short inexplicable passes, the control over the ball and the long and short dribbles are the various beauties of the game presented by the Argentines over the years. The effortless game they play is like the symphonies of Beethoven or Mozart. But sadly, none of that was on display in the Kolkata match. There were no set plays which the South Americans are masters off, and I could hardly see any speed in the game. True, there were glimpses of brilliance shown by Messi the Magician — he truly deserves to be the world footballer of the year. But the petite runs, indescribable passes and intelligence of the genius were hardly utilised by the rest of the Argentine team. In fact, the solitary goal scored was set by Messi only.
My fascination towards soccer began in 1986, thanks to Maradona, the greatest soccer player ever, who single-handedly won the World Cup for Argentina. That’s the time when I blindly started supporting that team. Year after year, I have supported them, thinking somebody may be able to bring back the glorious days to Argentine soccer. Be it Gabriel Batistuta (1998) or Crespo (2002) or Riquelme (2006) or off late the little magician Messi.
Frankly speaking, with the bar being raised so high by Diego, it has become almost impossible to live up to his boots. But to give due credit to today’s god of football — Lionel Messi — the rivals in the 1980s/1990s were not so well prepared to tackle Maradona. The only way to stop him was to kick him out of the game, which was so well displayed by Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup. Today, thanks to the increased use of computers in planning and coaching, and its impact on every sport, stopping Messi has become much easier compared to the earlier times.
I am not sure what has happened to this team but my instinct says too much exposure to European soccer is ruining their own style of ball play. With big money attracting them to Europe, all Argentine players are trying hard to inculcate the European style of play and in the process losing their own awe-inspiring natural flair. They were never known for their fast and fiery football like the English, neither for hard-hitting soccer like the Germans. They were always known for their effortless control over the ball, their sweet passes and their exceptional set plays.
I wish Argentina displays such soccer soon again, which hopefully also helps them lift another World Cup. Until then, I wish my football country todo lo mejor.