Saturday, May 3, 2014
Countdown to the Copa del Mundo - "International Figure" Lionel Messi
ESPN - "The Strange Relationship Between Lionel Messi and His Hometown in Argentina"
By Wright Thompson
"Messi isn't known as a deep thinker, or even really as a thinker at all, so it's fair to wonder if he's capable of existential longing. Many recycling bins of column inches have been devoted to the debate about his bland public persona. Is he incredibly well managed? After all, many thought Tiger Woods was unknowable, too. Is Messi -- how should I put this? -- stupid? An idiot savant? What if he's not guarded so much as empty? All those debates are just different ways of asking if he lives a second, interior life. Are there things inside Leo Messi -- fears, desires, hopes -- that he doesn't share?
There is a European newspaper story I read that strikes me as relevant. A few months ago, he took a private jet to Dubrovnik, Croatia, where a car took him across the Bosnian border into the town of Medjugorje. There's a shrine there, drawing pilgrims from around the world, because in 1981, six local youths claim to have seen the Virgin Mary, and some of them claim to still communicate with her. Messi was the guest of one of the visionaries, as they are known.
Ivan, his host, has received nine secrets from the Virgin that he has never shared. He says he sees Mary every day. She has rosy cheeks, blue eyes and an oval face. She wears a gray dress. Most people come to have their mind, body or spirit healed. The visionary wouldn't reveal the reason for Messi's pilgrimage, so we're left to wonder. What is broken inside Messi that he wanted to fix? What can't he buy with his millions or his fame? Of course, it's possible he just thought it might be a cool scene to check out. Maybe the visionary made up the whole thing. Maybe the paper did, or papers, plural, since the news appeared in multiple places, in multiple languages. Maybe we believe it because we want there to be unseen layers of Messi. We want there to be an explanation for his miracles even if we never hear the explanation ourselves. Just knowing it exists would be enough. That's certainly why I was in Rosario, driving around, knocking on doors."