Monday 19 March 2018

Misery mongers miss the magic of Messi

Lionel Messi produced a moment of magic from the penalty spot Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Lionel Messi produced a moment of magic from the penalty spot Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Eamonn Sweeney

Cheek. Effrontery. Divilment. Call it what you will, it's an integral and an irresistible part of sport. There's nothing quite like those moments which leave you shaking your head in disbelief, admiringly muttering, "the hoor," and grinning broadly.

Moments like Sugar Ray Leonard winding up a big punch with one hand, then popping Roberto Duran with the other; Mikey Sheehy curling the ball over the retreating Paddy Cullen; Pele trying to beat the keeper from the half-way line; Ernie Hunt's donkey kick for Coventry City; Rene Higuita's scorpion kick for Colombia; Joe McNally's step-over against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh; NFL trick plays; gratuitous NBA dunks; and the nutmegs performed all over the world at all ages and levels.

Now there's another one for the pantheon: Lionel Messi's penalty lay-off to Luis Suarez for the Uruguayan to score the fourth goal in Barcelona's 6-1 win over Celta Vigo. It was a thing of beauty, in keeping both with the joyous spirit in which Messi plays the game and the sense of infinite possibility with which Barcelona have entered most games in this remarkable season. Like a jewel heist in a caper movie it required careful planning, perfect technique and split-second timing. Get it slightly wrong, as Thierry Henry and Robert Pires did a few years back, and the players involved can look a right pair of dunces.

And yet there were those among us who, like Sam the Eagle in The Muppet Show, wanted to let it be known that they didn't think there was anything to laugh about. Barcelona, according to these sober-sided misery mongers, were guilty of showing disrespect to Celta. Which just goes to show that there are some people who'll always find an opportunity for complaint.

Not to worry, there'll be a scoreless draw along soon with plenty of 'workrate' and 'tracking back' and 'intensity' and no magic at all to keep them happy. When the American writer Randall Jarrell said that people who lived in a golden age probably went around complaining how yellow everything is he probably had folks like these in mind.

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