I’m not an overly religious man. Outside of attending a deluge of weddings and funerals in the last eighteen months, I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped across the chapel door. And the forecast ain’t looking good either. Like any self-respecting Roman Catholic man in Ireland approaching his thirties, going to Mass to be pontificated to by a member of the clergy interests me in the same way venereal disease does. Which, in itself, is a fitting analogy.
In the lead up to the World Cup, some of you might have caught the piece on Guillem Balagué’s trip to Belfast. I more or less made sure you did. Tactically securing a retweet from a man who has north of a million followers on Twitter has done wonders for me in terms of developing an Asian readership. A big dhanyavaad to all my boys in Bangalore.
Anyone needing a refresher, voilà…
Despite backing Lionel Messi to overcome the rising tide of animosity emanating from the media in his homeland, the notion that all was not right in the first place was of particular interest, I thought.
After all, any media outlet east of Buenos Aires, practically dutch rudders the guy – the maestro, the magician, the GOAT. Greatest of all time. I know somebody, somewhere has finally made sense of all the bovine related speak in their WhatsApp group over the past year. You’re very welcome.
Balagué refuted the suggestion that afternoon, that Messi played any role in Mauro Icardi’s exclusion from the Argentinian squad, implying that it was one of a growing number of sticks being readied to beat the Barcelona playmaker with, should the South Americans return from Russia empty handed. And whilst, the tale might seem far fetched when read in isolation, the sentiments of such a story surely could not have escaped the consciousness of fellow members of La Albiceleste.
Messi cut a fraught figure on Thursday night, pre-game, playing and post-match. He was made to endure his own torturous road to Calvary, burdened by a cross weighing approximately forty four million football headcases. Against the backdrop of Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick for Portugal against Spain last Friday night, he too was ineffective against Iceland on Saturday. Evidently, all is not well.
We all want answers that we are never going to get in the immediacy, unfortunately. But that’s not to say, all won’t be revealed in time.
Ill feeling may well have festered in the camp. The notion of Messi putting to bed the debate as the finest to ever pull on a pair of football boots has certainly overshadowed the hope of twenty two other players becoming the first side in a generation from their country to become World Champions.
Egos could well be bruised. After all, marquee talents in the shape of Gonzalo Higuaín and Paulo Dybala have been restricted to only a few moments game time between them to save a sinking ship. The exasperation on Kun Agüero’s face when he was substituted less than ten minutes into the second half, and immediately after the Croats scored their first goal, on Thursday night, was difficult to hide. Are there whispers about Icardi? Does Messi have a say in tactics, on who plays, when they play and how the play?
He has yet to be nailed to the Cross, for now. Nigeria, next Tuesday evening offers him a final chance to actually get on the end of a bloody cross or two, and complete a Messiah-like resurrection.
But the vultures are circling over head.
I’m not an overly religious man, but let me tell you about Matthew’s parable of The Sheep and The Goats.
Judgement will be passed amongst those gathered, and we will be separated into sheep and goats. The sheep on the right hand, the goats on the left. Blessed are the sheep, the lowly who toil. They will ascend to glory. But of the lofty, stubborn goats. The eternal fire is prepared for them.
It begs the question. Who would be a goat?