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Mohit Hooda enjoys a beautiful collection of newspaper clippings featuring Lionel Messi.
Football La Liga Opinion

Messi’s historic ‘Copa America’ triumph marks glorious end to devoted fan’s tribulation

Mohit Hooda enjoys a beautiful collection of newspaper clippings featuring Lionel Messi.
Mohit Hooda enjoys a beautiful collection of newspaper clippings featuring Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi dropped to the ground in joy at the full-time whistle of the Copa America 2021 final against Brazil. Argentina had pulled off a 1-0 win, with Messi claiming top-level honours while representing the nation in his 10th major tournament. The legendary footballer was named player of the tournament after ending a 28-year spell for ‘La Albiceleste’ since they last won the competition. As Messi found himself ferried around the ground on his teammates’ shoulders, the emotional tribute got the better of many fans who saw their beloved idol enjoy much-yearned international success.

As teardrops touched the ground at a furious pace, one of the most intense reactions was that of Bangalore-based Mohit Hooda. Mohit has been a fanatical supporter of Messi since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, backing him through thick and thin. Nothing can ever come between the 23-year-old and his beloved idol, with countless personal obligations and some professional responsibilities taking a backseat in case of a clash with an encounter featuring the Argentinian.

“All the pain and suffering accumulated released in the outpour of emotion”

“I started screaming and dancing like a possessed man after the final whistle was blown. To be fair, the moment demanded a more intense reaction. As I steadily gained composure, the fact that my face felt extremely wet slowly came to notice. I had been crying all this while, with the pain and suffering accumulated over the years released in the outpour of emotion. The triumph is certainly the greatest moment of my life so far. It might not have been the toughest match in Lionel Messi’s career, but it was definitely the sternest challenge faced by me as a fan emotionally and physically,” said Mohit in an exclusive chat with Sportsjuana.

“Defeating a supremely strong Brazil side at their fortress Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro has to be one of the greatest achievements in the game. Argentina had been defeated 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup final by Germany. They completed the perfect turnaround following a triumph by the same margin against fierce rivals Brazil. One of the biggest factors behind this was the astounding defence and ruthlessness in midfield.”

The 23-year-old interestingly did not follow the game at all before the 2010 World Cup. It might have remained the same if not for a chance interaction with a cousin, who told him about Messi’s exploits.

“I was enjoying my summer vacation at a cousin’s place with the FIFA World Cup going on at that stage. He is elder to me by nearly five years, and we share a great bond with a great deal of interaction. During one of those days, he mentioned Messi and Ronaldo, whom I had never heard of before. It was extremely fascinating to hear the former’s inspirational story. This was shortly followed by the knockout encounter against Germany, where Messi delivered a very spirited performance. However, Argentina suffered a defeat, with the pain visible on their talisman’s face. That sorrowful expression found its way into my heart and I took a vow to support him along the journey through thick and thin at any cost.”

Mohit followed this up by attempting to learn as much as possible about the Argentinian as well as about the club he represents: FC Barcelona.

“Hearing a negative opinion about Messi extremely painful”

“I focussed my efforts on gaining maximum information about Messi, with the passion soon resulting in heated arguments with classmates who idolised Cristiano Ronaldo. Hearing a single negative opinion about the Argentinian was supremely painful. As I continued to observe Messi further, there were numerous things about his personality that felt quite relatable. The Argentinian is quite humble and reserved while at the same time enjoying a certain aura. I have always respected sportsmen like him. Rahul Dravid and Roger Federer share similar characteristics which is definitely attractive. Messi, Dravid and Federer are the best at their craft and utmost gentlemen, which I have attempted to imbibe as well. When Argentina took on Venezuela in a friendly in 2011 in Kolkata, I convinced my parents to permit me to go to a friend’s place and watch the game because of a set-top box being required to be installed. That was completely unheard of back then. However, my love for Messi knows no bounds.”

“I have maintained a massive collection of news articles about the Argentinian from 2010 onwards. There is a shop near my house which sold newspapers and magazines with a massive range maintained. I used to run down to the shop and purchase different papers containing news about Messi. Those articles were then cut out and stored in a safe place. I feel quite emotional on seeing those articles, as they remind me of a beautiful journey. In many cases, interesting photos were even cut out of magazines in the school library, much to the surprise of the librarian,” says Mohit with a laugh.

The 23-year-old considers himself incredibly fortunate to have enjoyed some extremely special moments during this journey.

“Started throwing pillows everywhere when Messi scored screamer against Iran”

“Messi’s presence is a source of immense joy. He is a game-changer to the core. One of the examples of this is the stoppage-time winner against Iran in the 2014 World Cup. Messi is an enigma. When he scored that goal, I went crazy and started throwing pillows everywhere, much to the surprise of my parents who looked worried. The manner in which he churns out magical performances at jaw-dropping consistency is a marvel to witness. I have a habit of screaming out in happiness when Messi delivers a fine display. One of the significant instances of that was the Round of 16, first leg against Manchester City. I was very scared because City seemed extremely strong with Barcelona still rebuilding. However, Messi ensured a tidy win when it mattered the most.”

“The Argentinian’s leadership is quite underrated and was on show in the semi-final of the 2014 WC against the Netherlands. Messi brought all his experience to the fore, guiding the team through in a vital encounter. That made the defeat against Germany in the final even more hurtful, taking into account all the effort put in by the players. I did not cry, but could not sleep throughout the night due to the pain. Nearly a month passed before I was able to return to a semblance of normalcy. It was ten times more painful when Messi announced his international retirement following the defeat against Chile in the Copa America final.”

However, despite the immense discomfort and negativity of the moment, a turnaround was just around the corner as Mohit soon realised.

“While Messi had opted to retire from international football, he soon returned to action following a united request from fans as well as the national footballers. This was a matter of great happiness as we got an opportunity to witness his exploits in the 2018 World Cup. I ensured that no stones were left unturned when it came to watching the maestro in action. Argentina’s opening game was against Iceland at 6 PM, with a workshop till 8 PM. I made an excuse over ill-health, returning in time for the game. It was well worth it. I was in a village when Argentina took on Nigeria in a late-night group stage encounter. The 90 minutes were spent sitting on the terrace, refreshing the scores with mosquitos biting all over. While a defeat against France marked Argentina’s exit, the team was able to find its feet which reflected in the performances. Eventually, the process culminated in this glorious triumph. I was mentally ready to finish the encounter as either the most depressed or happiest man on earth. Thankfully, it ended on a positive note,” says Mohit with a smile.

Lionel Messi’s distinct resemblance to MS Dhoni

The young football fanatic has witnessed a fair share of transformation in Messi over the course of 10 years.

“He initially maintained long hair, which has been changed to a cleaner look. With regard to gameplay, Messi was initially the man charged with simply getting the ball in the net and providing assists. Over the years, he has moved deeper as an individual, looking to set the game up rather than targetting personal milestones. Messi’s defensive contribution has further developed significantly over the years. I note this distinct resemblance to MS Dhoni, with regard to the manner in which Dhoni initially looked to take the game to the opposition, before steadily allowing others to grab the limelight. Messi earlier never argued with the referees over decisions taken, but has lately become vocal which is a sign of him being protective of his teammates. Both Dhoni and the Argentine are very encouraging towards youngsters.”

On a concluding note, Mohit shares the reasons why he believes Messi presents the ideal role model to emerging youngsters as well as the next generation.

“He is really good at his craft and strives to improve as much as possible. Messi was not very good at taking free-kicks early on and is currently one of the best, which is a massive source of inspiration. He is consistent, disciplined and takes utmost care of his health. We should try to imbibe such values and improve as much as possible as individuals. Messi is further very loyal and dedicated in nature, as evident from his long term association with FC Barcelona. Despite facing so many disappointments, the Argentinian rarely complains and simply focuses on being a source of joy for millions around the world. This is an example of a man who adopts a positive mindset. On a concluding note, Messi was heartbroken following the departure of Neymar and Suarez. However, he continued to go along his responsibilities like a true professional rather than protest. Who better than him to emulate,” concludes Mohit with a flourish.


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