Obligation and the role of a fan, aka “Leave Messi alone.”

A Subway posted a sign (probably not approved by spokesman Pele).

A sand artist made a monument.

Argentina unveiled a statue (even if it looks like Han Solo frozen in carbonite).

Maradona stopped being a braying jackass.

Tens of thousands of fans had a rally.

Bytes and bytes of eloquence has been expended online — all in an effort to get Lionel Messi to reconsider his decision to leave the Argentina national football team.

Y’all should stop. Now.

What should reassure us is that Messi will do what he wants to do. And in the part of the deal that is the public trust that supports a beloved athlete, his supporters should want what is best for the athlete, rather than what is best for them.

It’s easy to understand why people would want to see as much of him as possible. It should also be easy to understand why that desire is selfish and in many ways, misguided. If I loved someone, truly loved them, and they looked like Messi did at the end of that Copa America final, I would give them a hug, cry with them and make sure they never put themselves in that situation again. How good that person might be at the thing that caused him or her misery is immaterial.

As a very astute person said, Messi plays with joy at Barça, and with fear for Argentina. We saw the heartbreaking manifestation of that on the weekend, and nobody can blame Messi for wanting it to stop. The player should do what he wants to do, and all of the blandishments, and rallies, and SMSes and statues and please baby please-ing, should stop. Now. Because we have to want the best for the people we adore, whatever that decision is.

We think that we can control people with displays of affection, that if someone wants to leave, us saying “No, please don’t, come back,” should have an effect. When it is an athlete, we say it because we are hooked on them and what they do, almost as if we reduce them to this performing thing. Messi is runs, and goals and magic tricks with the ball that reduce us to gibbering people with the equivalent of flash bulbs going off in our heads. It’s addictive. Of course we want more. And more.

Messi will do what Messi wants to do. This should reassure us. All athletes should, even as we consider them part of a public trust. An athlete is, in an odd way, ours. We adopt them when they play for the teams, laud their exploits and come to think of them as part of this global family. But that athlete is a person — with hopes, dreams, fears and worries, chockablock with human frailties. We only rarely treat them as such. For us, they are unassailable, frozen in time at their best moment and we need them to stay that way. We’re greedy. Who didn’t cheer when Puyol returned? It was after he left the game that he talked about the pain that he had to endure. He did it because he wanted to, but who didn’t feel a little bit of shame in the cognizance of that greed, that rush at seeing our legendary Capita charge up the pitch. Puyol!

I am not a Messi fan, but I love watching Messi play, for the same reason that you enjoy any great athlete doing what they do. But even as someone who isn’t a Messi fan, that post-match stuff was really hard to take. Let him be. Let him hang with his family, take vacation, hug his kids and do what normal humans do, because he has so little time to do that. Imagine being him, being out in the world. You can’t just walk to the store, can’t just pop into a Starbucks, can’t do any of that stuff that we take for granted. It is an abnormal life because of his abnormal talent, which is true of any athlete. They make absurd sums for playing the games that they play, and we forget that they aren’t ours, can’t be and shouldn’t be.

We think that by somehow showing the athlete how much we adore them, such displays should sway them. Messi should see the thousands of people begging him to come back, be moved and decide to rescind his decision to retire. Hogwash. Messi should do what he wants to do, and we should sit back and wait until he makes that decision. And then we should deal with that decision. In the interim, we should remember that Messi is a human being, just like we are, and he doesn’t like stuff that sucks.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

6 Comments

  1. G6O
    June 30, 2016

    To give perspective of the magnitude of the crisis, this is happening in Argentina, while here it is a Barcelona blog, and we just bought a player for 25M and nobody has even mentioned it 🙂

    • Davour
      June 30, 2016

      Well, for Barcelona, as has been noted, Messi’s NT retirement could be good news! And it will indeed be exciting to see Umtiti. I hope all will be patient with him. And if he is indeed good, 25m is a bargain these days.

      On a different note: Portugal is on their way to “Greece” themselves towards the final. Yet to win a game during ordinary time. Well, I guess they learned from their 2004 superiors…

    • Davour
      June 30, 2016

      History repeats itself: CR has a crap game, wins on penalties. Enough for for the golden ball?

      Ney renewing, fellows. That is splendid – if not surprising – news!

    • June 30, 2016

      Yet. We’re getting to it.

  2. dl
    June 30, 2016

    To repeat a comment I made on the earlier thread:

    “I think Messi more than any other player (well, Iniesta and some others do come to mind) seems to be a very well balanced person who loves to play soccer, and I see his decision to retire as exactly the kind of decision a very well balanced person who loves to play soccer would make. Huge respect. He’s given so much joy to the world, how could I not support him in this?”

  3. Jim
    July 1, 2016

    Dang! Barcastuff has now given up for good. Pity as, overall, it was an excellent source of Barca news.

    In other news , way to go for Neymar’s agent stirring up controversy with his biggest contract in football history comments. Not helpful with Messi’s renewal coming up and also, according to others, inaccurate.

    Interesting comments from Barto in his review of the year. I’m no financial expert but it seems to me that the club is doing well . I’m still uneasy about the club taking the Neymar tax blame but from the various explanations I’ve read it seems to be the best option and, again, I know little about the workings of finances at this level.

    The stadium upgrade, for me, is welcome and necessary and although I find all renaming so like this tacky I’m not arguing at more than €200m coming in to help finance it – as long as the words Camp Nou are still in the title.

    On the playing level I hope Messi finds a quiet beach somewhere to relax with his family and switches off his phone. Just caught up with the scenes at the end of the Copa and that is one burned out individual. I’d be tempted to tell him to take an extra couple of weeks off if he feels he needs it .

    Good news on the CB front obtaining a top quality CB for €25 m . We don’t always do bad transfer business it seems. Kxevin rates him highly and apparently we might see him play for France against Icelend this weekend. I’m not clear, though, what our plan is at he back. I’m assuming this guy (Umtiti ? Are we really gonna call him that ?) hasn’t come to sit for a season at that price so does that become our main CB pairing ? Seems logical but what happens behind that ? TV and Bartra will probably go so we need to keep Masche and Mathieu which gives us a fair amount of cover at various positions. Is Masche happy to spend time on the bench ? Or is LE still intending to use him as our first choice? Wouldn’t make me happy but that would explain the improved contract as it doesn’t make much sense otherwise at his age and salary.

    Samper apparently going out on loan according to Barto. Big mistake for me. He’s ready and a loan into a different system and without playing with our quality of players will add diddley to his experience and only add to his frustration. Busi will need some rest and Samper is the closest to him that we have.

    It’ll be good to see how some of it settles. Vidal or SR at RB ? ( Btw, could the fact that Dani is the latest to be chased for unpaid taxes be a contributing factor to his transfer? ) if D Suarez comes back can he unseat Rakitic or is he just a sub for up front ? If we do get the spare 9 we’re chasing he’ll not get a lot of time . Can Turan really keep on playing badly enough given his undoubted talents to not force his way into the side ? Where does that leave Rafinha ? And finally, how will the keeper situation work out now that Barto has said both are staying?

    Gonna be a lot of unhappy players next season . . . but a good looking squad.

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