The tears had taken a while to come but Lionel Messi’s mum Celia took him in her arms on the pitch afterwards they came flooding out of both of them. Separated by his prodigious football ability when he left Rosario to play in Barcelona as a homesick 13-year-old, their embrace together in amongst the madness of the Argentinian World Cup celebrations was both touching and deep.
The boy who became the greatest the game has ever seen was, for a brief few seconds, just a little boy again. It was the most public of private moments. Then it was off to sing and dance in front of the wall of Argentina fans who had willed their side over the line in the final that had everything – including two goals and a shootout penalty from their demigod.
They sang their World Cup theme song ‘Muchachos’, an ode to restored hope after last summer’s Copa America success, which translates into English as follows.
“In Argentina I was born, land of Diego and Lionel, I’ll never forget the young men of the Falkland Islands, I can’t explain it to you, because you wouldn’t understand, how many years I cried for the finals that we lost.
“But that’s all over, because in the Maracana [stadium], the final against the Brazilians, daddy [Argentina] won again. Guys, now we can dream again, I want to win the third Lionel Messi in tears as Argentina World Cup hero shares emotional private moment with mum, I want to be a world champion.
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“And Diego [Maradona], we can see him up in heaven, With Don Diego [Maradona’s father] and with La Tota [Maradona’s mother], All rooting for Lionel.” OK, it doesn’t quite read as well but the emotion as it is sung is something to behold and it rang out long and loud after they had completed their mission on Sunday night.
To say a lot had been resting on Messi’s shoulders is a vast understatement. How much was underlined by the deafening roar 80 minutes before kick-off as the image of him alighting from the Argentina team bus at the ground was flashed across the big screens in the Lusail Stadium. He carried a nation at this World Cup but he lifted it to the heavens.
The two penalty despatches were clinical, the extra time tap-in a testament to his durability. At 35, it looked as if he might have been fading in his seventh match in 27 days when he was knocked off the ball by Kingsley Coman ahead of France’s dramatic normal-time equaliser.
But, after almost winning the game in normal time after stepping inside two defenders before drilling a thunderbolt goalwards which Hugo Lloris tipped over the bar he came again in extra time with his second goal. He got to celebrate it twice with the VAR check.
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Only when that was over did Messi, cross himself look to the sky and point upwards. It was his thank you to his grandma who died just before his 11th birthday. Back in Rosario, she who used to take him and his elder brothers to football training when they were kids.
She set the train in motion. The one that reached its final destination on Sunday night. He has been majestic all World Cup. The player of the tournament award was, unlike in 2014, fully deserved. He has made the difference for Argentina.
There are some rogues and chancers in the Argentina side but everyone can appreciate the sublime talent that is Messi and few would begrudge him his defining moment in the sport that has given him so much. For Qatar it was a perfect ending. The biggest star in the football universe, perhaps the greatest player of all time, lifting their World Cup.
A month ago many of the white-robed locals had left at half-time in the opening game, unimpressed with how bad the Qatar team was but, mixed in somewhat awkwardly with the bouncing Argentines, they weren’t going anywhere here. As Messi raised the golden trophy skywards – in his special Qatari robe – after what was perhaps the most dramatic final of them all, the whole of football applauded.