Just over a year ago, on the flight home from the World Cup in Johannesburg I watched Kusturica’s “Maradona“. Early in the film Kusturica gives an interesting thought. The codes that used to exist in aristocratic families exist now only among the poor. I think he is right. The middle class lives according to Hollywood series. The poor have only loyalty as an axis in life.
It reminded me how Maradona defended Messi after being eliminated from the Africa World Cup. Saying “he was not a multi-millionaire playing in Europe”. That he hurts for the homeland. He protected Messi’s name in from of their countrymen.
But this is Messi’s Argentinean tragedy. Maradona joined Barcelona age 22 and never assimilated in the European elitist society of Catalonia. He was virtually dumped to Naples on the fringe of European society. He would never be embraced by Europe or FIFA or the establishment. He would be branded illegitimate by Europeans. They almost rejoiced seeing reduced to drug addiction. But illegitimacy was his power. In his own eyed turned him into the equivalent of Latin-American freedom fighters whom he adored. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Messi joined Barcelona aged 12. He too a rare footballing incarnation. He would be raised and educated as a European. He is now Barcelona in the flesh. Thus, the kid who idolized Maradona cannot lead a Maradonian war. Who would need his leadership at Barcelona? Xavi? Iniesta? What political alternative does he represent when every “Argentina-Adidas-Messi” shirt has been sold in South Africa? Messi is Barcelona, Europe and Capitalism. He will outshine Maradona in European success = win more, score more.
But he will never be what Maradona was for the motherland.