We cover a lot of sad and miserable soccer stuff here at Soccer Gods, but every so often we get the chance to talk and write about something that is made up of nothing but pure joy and sunshine. This is one of those stories.
The game we love is about so much more than money, corruption and scandals involving journalistic integrity. When it’s all said and done, what makes the beautiful game beautiful is the happiness it brings to the lives of fans. And no happiness is greater and more transcendent than that of children.
A group of Argentinian soccer players, including this delighted lad, Lionel Messi, took a trip together to go see the their first NBA game. Unfortunately, it was the Washington Wizards against the Indiana Pacers, but still, good times were had by all.
Young Messi seems a little overwhelmed by what’s happening. His coaches say he’s a bit shy and likes to keep to himself, preferring drawing pictures of his cat Pepito in his notebook to long conversation with his friends. Lil’ Carlos Tevez – denied a third hot dog by his coaches – looks like he’s ready to go home, but his grumpiness didn’t dampen the mood for everyone else.
Look at the joy in this little boy’s eyes! This is what it’s all about. Messi got the chance to meet former Washington center, the 7’6″ tall (and star of the greatest commercial of all time) Gheorghe Muresan. Messi confided in Muresan, telling him that because he was so small, he was was often bullied. He said he was particularly afraid of the kids from another camp called Atlético Madrid. It was the first time his coaches had heard him open up to a stranger.
In a touching moment, the real-life giant told Leo that if he drank his milk, did all his homework, and listened to his parents, he too could grow up to be big and strong. Maybe not 7’6″, but at least big enough that he could make it to the end of practice with all of his lunch money.
Soccer camp is the highlight of almost every player’s youth. It’s great to see that tradition live on. Everyone gets their cool matching jackets – adidas, just like the real teams wear – and goes out to relax after a long day of drills. Bellies full of Capri Sun and cotton candy, this Argentinian select team will share memories of this night for years.