I abhor Lionel Messi with all my heart because he confined Nigeria to the squalid room of heartbreak. Not once, not twice, not even thrice did he break my heart.
In 2005, Argentna faced the Flying Eagles in the grand finale of the FIFA Under 20 Championships. Samson Siasia had done a good job training a generation of potential Super Eagles.
Africa had never won the trophy. Nigeria got so very close at Saudi ’89 only to flop before Portugal after President Ibrahim Babangida had declared public holidays.
Holland 2005 looked good. The Flying Eagles had excellent players like John Mikel Obi and Taiye Taiwo. The Argies won the match 2-1,thanks to Messi who was doing more of diving and dancing inside the penalty box.
Two penalty kicks killed it for Nigeria. Messi and his team lifted the trophy. He also won the Golden Ball. Silver and bronze went to the duo of Mikel and Taiwo.
Messi and Argentina came again in the final of the soccer event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Siasia was coach of the Dream Team. Nigerians were disappointed when they saw silver earned after losing 1-0.
South Africa 2010 was Messi’s World Cup debut. The Super Eagles could not make it after being dragged away by Angola.
When Nigeria returned to the global stage at South Africa 2010, Diego Maradona led Argentina against West African old foes. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama did so well to keep Messi away. The South Americans won 1-0.
Enyeama was outstanding. Messi extended a hand of respect. The Eagles put up a good fight but lost gallantly.
In 2014, Enyeama was still solid but three goals went past him. Messi was one of scorers. It was a poor Nigerian side coached by homeboy, Stephen Keshi.
Four years later, in 2018, the Eagles let everyone down by falling to the Argies again. Coach Gernat Rohr had no regrets, but he was also blessed with players who were in good spirits.
Now, I have forgiven the mercurial striker, just two days to the Qatar 2022 grand finale. I wish him the best in Sunday’s top game with France.
While I distanced myself from Messi, I did not hide my love for Argentina. I picked interest in him when the country hosted. President Jorge Videla was well known for always wearing hand gloves in public.
It was believed that he used that to kill the habit of chewing his finger nails. Videla was a little man who did great things which made life a little easier.
The Argies did not have to waste time. They believed the Cup was already home and gave it their best. They won for the first time.
It was from Argentina ’78 that such place names like Mar de Plata, Rosario, Cordoba, River Plate never left me.
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War in the seas showed more. In 1982, England invaded Malvinas Islands, a territory very dear to the South Americans.The English ñ to the area as Falkland.
England met Argentina at Espana ’82. Cesar Menotti had no regards for the English. “We will fight for our country on the soccer field”, The manager told everyone.
Diego Maradona was just 21 when the World Cup began in Spain. The Argies were defending champions. In the opening match, the cup holders lost 1-0 to Belgium.
He shone in the second game against Hungary with a brace. Daniel Bertoni and Osvaldo Ardiles completed the rout. This same Hungary that tackled Amjheli
Unfortunately, the day Maradoona scored his first World Cup goal was the day President Leopold Galtieri was forced to resign by the ruling junta.
In the next round, Maradona was axed in the game with Brazil for kicking Batista on the groin.
By the time the Argies returned at Mexico ’86, there was only one man who was dreaded by them all, Maradona. A Brazilian tabloid had enough words for him.
“Argentina is only Diego Maradona, who is commanding 10 recruits and is winning the battle.”
Maradona made more news headlines. In the quarter finals, England came. The result is still debated today. In the 51st minute, Maradona scored a controversial goal against England.
Referee Ali Ben Nacceur of Tunisia did not see the hand. Maradona called it hand of God. Maradona had not finished. In the next four minutes, keeper Peter Shilton was deceived again with the leg. Scorer was Maradona.
These events are well known and recorded. By the time his country won the World Cup, Messi was just a boy.
I want him to feel World Cup he helped build. I will put Messi in prayer. The trophy is on its way to Buenos Aires.
Imagine these feelings. At Mexico ’86, Morocco topped their group F. The Moroccans did it again at Qatar ‘2022. They beat Portugal in 1986, in 2022, Morocco beat Portugal. The North Africans did not lose any group match
At Mexico ’86, the Brazilians were knocked out in the quarter finals through penalty kicks. France won. The same date befell Belgium.
I knew France would knock out Morocco both countries know themselves so well. As far back as 1938, a Morrocan, Larbi ben Barek was playing professioal football on France.
ben Barek, also played for the French National team, Les Blues.
The two countries debuted at the maiden Uruguay 1930 World Cup. Argentina won 1-0. Something happened that we may not forget. The referee ended the game five minutes before time.
While the French protested, the Argies went to change at the dressing room. The referee realised his mistake and called them back to conclude the match.
Argentina have a long list of great footballers. Mario Kempes, Osvaldo Ardiles, Jorge Valdano, Gabriel Batistuta and Jorge Burruchaga.
Messi has shown quality leadership. This is his last World Cup. I think this trophy will help to rewrite his history.