Lionel Messi’s path to stardom has not been smooth. At times, Leo was afraid to play football because of his small body.
To become the top stars in the world, every player has to go through a rough start. Messi is no exception. The Argentine striker is talented, but sometimes he is self-conscious about his height and isolates himself. But one day, after a strange dream, everything completely changed.
Zing summarizes two chapters in the book “The Flea – The Amazing Story of Lionel Messi” by author Michael Part, telling about Leo’s starting point on the way to becoming an outstanding football player.
Messi – shy boy
That year, Messi turned 4 years old. The whole family gathered to prepare for Leo’s birthday. As everyone sang to celebrate the birth of “El Pulga”, Messi shyly hid behind his two older brothers, Matias and Rodrigo.
Messi doesn’t like being the center of attention. However, if he does not show his face, he will not be able to eat cakes and receive gifts. While blowing out the candles, “El Pulga” closed her eyes tightly, mumbled and began to wish for something.
When he opened his eyes, Leo saw his grandmother. Celia Olivera has prepared a surprise gift for Messi. “Is this your wish, Leo?” she asked. “Yes,” Messi shouted excitedly as Celia Olivera presented him with a new ball.
After the small party, Messi’s two brothers and some relatives went out to play football. Only Leo remained in the house. Messi climbed into bed and watched everyone start the game in the potrero (as the hot, dusty streets of Rosario were called).
“El Pulga” was too shy to join the brothers. Messi is much smaller than them. If he joined the party, Leo could be trampled by the people below. “Let’s go Leo,” Messi’s grandmother entered the room and urged her nephew, who was lying dejectedly on the bed.
“Go down the street and play football with other people. Don’t lock yourself in your room. I need the sun to grow up,” Celia Olivera continued to cheer.
“Let’s go. Show those relatives the taste of failure. Prove you’re better than the amateurs,” Celia grabbed Messi’s wrist and pulled her nephew up.
“And you can be my coach?” Leo replied.
Messi then took the ball, kissed her and rushed out of the room. But Leo just stood on the side of the road, the Barca star still did not dare to join everyone: “They are too tall and I am too small”.
Messi felt he couldn’t step out and let people see. No one wants to pick someone like you on the team. While running around the house, Messi met his neighbor, Cintia.
Cintia wishes Leo a happy birthday and wonders why he’s hiding here. She can read Messi’s mind. He was afraid to play with big people. However, the Argentine striker will not tell her neighbor.
“Beautiful ball. You should practice with it,” Cintia said and left. Messi looked at the little girl and then suddenly looked at the gift his grandmother gave him. Leo still chooses to play alone.
Messi’s mother and grandmother looked at him from the window. Leo really does a great job and possesses incredible talent. Mrs Celia told her daughter: ‘He’s afraid to play football with the big kids. It always thinks it’s too small and not good enough.”
“But I think he’s too good to play with those kids. Look how it hits the ball. He loves football and I know he can,” said Celia Olivera, pleased.
Dream of Maradona
One night when Messi was 6 years old, his father, Jorge, came to his bed and asked: “Can you tell me about your prayer?”.
“Yes, okay. I want God to help me get taller,” Messi replied.
Jorge looked at Leo. What he just heard hurt a father. He felt himself responsible for his son. “So are you, Leo. Have you heard other kids talk about ‘The Pibe’?” he asked.
“The boy?” Leo asked.
“Yes, that is what it means. But the myth of ‘The Pibe’ is more than a word and its meaning. It was a boy from Argentina who learned to play football on the streets, where he could only dribble and hold the ball,” Leo’s father said.
“Like Maradona?”, Messi asked.
“Exactly like Maradona. Maradona is the Pibe of all time,” continued Jorge.
“Is this the story of Maradona?” Messi asked again.
“No son, this is your story,” replied Jorge.
This really comforts Messi because it is his dream. Leo wants to become a professional footballer when he grows up and is coached by Maradona. Jorge’s story also influenced Messi. That night, Leo had a dream he had never seen before.
He was playing behind the house and saw the goalkeeper Maradona in a black shirt. The legend of Tango is standing in the middle of the goal. Messi was really shocked with the scene in front of him. He stopped dribbling.
Maradona suddenly shouted: “Don’t stop Leo. Let’s shoot. This is your match, Pibe.”
Messi pushes the ball forward, then fires a left-footed shot. The ball flew over Maradona’s head and fell into the net. Leo celebrates the goal, slams his hands in the air and looks towards the “Golden Boy”. He hoped to see his senior’s disappointed face for conceding a goal. But no, Maradona smiled.
“This is amazing, Leo. It’s like magic. La Nuestra,” Maradona said and lifted Messi up, tossing him into the air. Instead of feeling like he was about to fall, the number 10 seemed to float on the clouds. The Argentine legend shouted for the last time: “You really are ‘The Pibe'”.
All fear disappeared when Leo heard the praises from Maradona. Messi replied: “I think the senior is ‘The Pibe'”.
“Yes, but you will be the next heir. You’ll follow in my footsteps, Leo,” the “Golden Boy” replied.
Messi couldn’t believe his eyes, he was swimming in the clouds and could see the sun. Then, the early morning sun woke Leo up. “Awesome”, Messi shouted, causing both his mother and grandmother to rush into the room.
“What’s great?” asked Mrs. Celia.
“My dream. I’ve never had such a beautiful dream,” Messi replied.
“Good. You can tell me about it on our way to Grandoli,” said Celia Olivera.
“Grandoli. Shall we come to watch them play?”, Messi jumped out of bed with a beaming face.
“Is that what you want to do in Grandoli? Just watching?” his grandmother asked.
“Are not. I want to play football,” Leo replied bluntly.
“Exactly so,” said Mrs. Celia, satisfied. “But I can’t play for them,” Messi shook his head.
“You can, Leo. They don’t know you yet, but they will need a player like you,” Celia replied.