The Ungolden Ball

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

As Argentine football hung by a tenuous gossamer, clinging to the last few blinks of life, he stooped over the ball before the free-kick, aware of the cosmic weight of the moment. ‘It’s now or it’s never,’ intoned the commentator, and no one knew this better than Lionel Messi. Redemption was only a kick of a ball away.

‘He has done it before,’ the voice told us, that enchanted, unbelievably curling kick into the goal post as mere men have stood mesmerized, but Messi was just not there. I waited with a football in my throat, a premonition thumping in the chest louder and louder, my entrails dribbling themselves into a knotty mesh, before he thwacked the ball. It went sailing over the goal post, it was not to be, it was not to be. It was just not Argentina’s day —not after Gonzalo Higuaín missed the sitting duck of a goalpost by a mile in the first half of the game. There are blunders that hang on your neck like an albatross, and then there are blunders that hang on your opponent’s neck like a world cup.

Phlegm has replaced the constriction in my throat since that night, and I am down with flu. A million words have sprouted elsewhere as I scribble this too, a zillion columns filled complimenting the Germans for their rhythm and perseverance, pooh-poohing the Argentines for their missed chances. I hear of records broken over Twitter and elsewhere.

Now I have always admired Germany as a nation and for the grit and determination of its citizens. The moment must be especially sweet for them as they kiss the cup as a united land and I congratulate them. I’d be the last clown to cast an evil eye on their fortune, try and dampen the dazzle of Goetze’s perfect goal. But my heart goes out decidedly to Messi, the man who can waltz through a bunch of bulls and yet not lose the ball, the man who can lob the one pound sphere over a clump of unbelieving heads into the net like a lark, but the man who may never play in a World Cup Final again, nevertheless. And then he deserved so much more than the Golden Ball that he would rather not take.

Don’t cry foul for an award Mr Maradona, you should be grateful to Messi that his heart is still with Argentina rather than Spain, his foster country. Perhaps you should be grateful too that he was the spark that ushered the team to the finals and almost led them through it.


  1. The post is delighting as always. But, Messi, Alas !! dear friend is just a club player who had no nationalistic feeling. He is good for nothing.

  2. Sorry to hear you are ailing with the flu US; as the entire developing world is ailing no doubt.

    What a buzz it is, if the have-nots can triumph @ something like the World Cup. Shame on you Gemany for winning, when the love of the game is as string in kids that play the same game in the rubbish heap streets of Lagos, Calcutta & Buenos Aires.

    Thank goodness for the necessary notion of hope……oh well, maybe next year.
    Cheers, ic

  3. Somehow our heart always goes to individual achievers with flare than teams that are systematic and methodical – that somehow feels like a machine and one doesn’t find the heart in it. By the way, sorry to hear of your illness. Hope you have recovered by now.

    1. That is a compelling thought, Karthik. At the same time, it;s hard not to be a human. I am feeling fine now, may God bless you!

  4. You have written it so well. I am not a football fan, for that matter, most of sports talk is lost on me , but still your eloquent post held my attention till the end and that’s no mean feat for my non-sporty mind 😀

  5. uma, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a soccer game in my life. But having been a gymnastics coach and involved in some form of sport all my life I understand well the bittersweetness of both victory and defeat.

    1. Both joy and sorrow bring tears to humans, Marty, The sky under victors and losers is the same colour of blue but appear blurred to both. If you can see it vividly, you’ve neither won nor lost: you are just a keeper of records.

  6. I was stricken when Messi’s boys messed it up. That they reached the finals itself was an achievement. Heart was with the blues while the head said the Cup would rest in Deutschland. I cannot fathom what it must be like to carry half the world’s expectations and yet focus on the ball and the goal…Reading your post was like revisiting those tense moments in the ungodly hour!

    1. Isn’t that duel between the heart and head familiar? Yet, the blue and white would have won had they been able to tame their heartbeats. Glad to have shared my pangs with you!

  7. Enjoyed your post, Umashankar! I don’t really watch soccer (or what you call football), although I was aware of the World Cup and I had heard about the battle between Argentina and Germany. I love the way you wrote this and you made the game sound interesting to me! Hope you’re recovering well from the flu.

    1. The flu has come and gone like the world cup. It is not hard to latch on to odd games now and then. After all, it is all about human emotions. Thank you for your kind wishes.

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