April 30, 2011

The Philosopher and the Gladiator of Football - Messi and Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Any football lovers out there? If you are, you know which match I was watching two nights ago. Yes, the Champions League first-semi final between Barcelona and Real Madrid. And Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were in focus again.

If you are not a football lover, you can just scroll down and look at some of my favorite snaps of Messi and Ronaldo. Or alternatively you can still read my musings which are really not very footballish. Furthermore I can entice you with an anti-football poem I wrote some years back which will tickle your ...eh... something.

Ronaldo has always fascinated me with his Latin temperament and his extreme physical acceleration. When he runs, he is like a cheetah. Furthermore, he always gives 100%, unless he is in a bad mood for some ego-reason - which does happen, now and then. But during this game two evenings back, it was as usual Messi who caught my eye, mind and heart. The crown jewel of football. Every single coach in the world, every single supporter, would want Messi to be theirs. He is, physically, a small man. But don't be fooled. That small man punches 1000 times above his height. Messi the magician. He suddenly appears - poof - out of thin air to score one impossible goal after the other. Unlike Ronaldo he is not moody, self-centered, and arrogant, but even-tempered, polite, and simple.

As I watched the game I had a flashback to May 2009 when I watched the Champions League final where the same two players were central. At that time Ronaldo was playing for Manchester United. Yesterday I dipped into my diary to see what thoughts I had noted down after the 2009 match:

Rising a mere 169 cm above the ground, Messi is altitudinally challenged; still he was able to fly above everyone else in the Man U defense and head the second and last nail into the Manchester coffin. A glimmer of hope for all short people. Ronaldo is highly enthusiastic, but he has a pride-problem. When the journalists asked who the best player was, he or Messi, he got irritated. I'm sure Messi would have smiled. He is simply more sympathetic - rather than engaging in quarrels he dons a profound smile. The Mona Lisa of football. That's what I would write about if I were a football-blogger. When I see Messi, I want to enter his head and heart to see what's going on. When I see Ronaldo, I'm not even curious. Messi is the philosopher - trying to perfect his game of chess on grass; Ronaldo is the gladiator wanting applause and recognition.
                                                                       (Excerpt, The Pirate Diaries)

I really don't dislike Ronaldo. He has his boyish charm and wild animal acceleration, and often he inspires me with his assertiveness. I do indeed have something to learn from him. But if I were forced to choose between Messi and Ronaldo, there is little doubt as to who I would bring with me to a desolate island.

See, Ronaldo is rumored to be committed to 3000 sit-ups per day; I am not sure he would be of much help when gathering roots and picking coconuts and building the camp fire. Secondly, I don't think our desolate island will have any mirrors and he might have some violent outbursts when he cannot do his five daily "mirror mirror on the wall, who is the handsomest of them all?" sessions. And really, how can I spend my days with a man who has called his first and only son the same as himself, Cristiano?  It reminds me of the legendary American Boxer George Foreman who called all five of his sons and two of his daughters for George. What's the deal?!?

No, Messi and I would cooperate and share all responsibilities. In the daytime we would surf the waves on our handmade bamboo surf boards or explore the caves on the island or befriend some local animals with whom we could play a refreshing game of football. In the evening we would drink our own coconut wine and let the sun retire slowly until the stars descend upon us like fireworks. We would live happily and thankfully without mirrors.

Football is chess on grass - it is beautiful. When I was little there seemed to be more gentlemen-players. Like my first hero, the Brazilian footballer Socrates, whom I named my dog after. But now with all the money in football the gladiators dominate. That is why I admire Messi so much more - not only does he survive but he thrives among the wolves. It's as if he is telling us all to believe in the power of civility - that the world is not bound to be tied up in wars and violence.

Because if you watched the game between Barca and Real you would see how football often is a game between two teams saturated with muscle-packed, self-centered, testosterone-pumped young males with ego-management problems. It doesn't exactly show humanity at its best.

Perhaps that is why my sister sighs every time my brother-in-law turns on the TV to watch a game. And now, dear reader, comes the poem I promised - with my sister as the protagonist. I think I wrote it during the World Cup in 2004 when many women become football widows for a month. I've called it Lethal Wish:
She sighed
Burdened with a heavy wish
That football
Would have a massive heart attack
And die
If only my sister would come to know about Messi, she might see the light. Perhaps Messi is the Messiahs of football we have all been waiting for. May the future generations of footballers with a soft, beautiful heart and a simple, civil attitude - who play for the love of the game and not for fast cars and models - drink in his inspiration and never give up for the gladiators. The world is at stake.

(Ha, I think I'm starting to sound like a great football prophet! Go, Little Dragon, Go! Wait - can somebody hand me a mirror?)

Football's King Philosopher. A penny for your thoughts?

Primal Scream - taking off one's shirt is illegal during a match. But who can blame a gladiator for wanting to show his body after a goal? I mean, 3000 sit-ups a day must surely give him some rights...

A glimmer of hope for the short people of the world - altitudinally challenged Messi flies high.

Celebrating a goal - the classy way
The Ronaldo Way

Mona Lisa Smile at press conference
Are you talkin' to me?!?

The art of joyfully sitting on one's butt
Sitting on your butt with pride

Messi in Black
Tongue in check
The God Father next?

Funny Faced Messi

Corny Cristiano

A Humble Free Kick

Gladiator Free Kick

Ooopss...sorry, guys...

My hair!

Joyful Heart

Prince Charming

The misery of injury

The pain of crushed ambition

Mischievous Messi

Cheeky Cristiano

Decent Jeans Advertisement

Indecent Jeans Advertisement

Too sexy for my clothes

Too modest to take off my shirt
Lionel - who tricked you into this?
Gentlemen will be victorious


  1. Hmmmmmmm !!! The only thing after reading this post is that this is a game I need to get acquainted with just like the Norwegians watching cricket. Ofcourse I have a connection though, I drive my son to and fro for his games and participate in the dugnad once in a while and it never got beyond that :-)

  2. WOW Ingela!!!! I think I started to like this guy Messi. First I just browsed thru' the pics and left it there , then I felt like going back anfd reading the whole thing and I must say - you succeeded in making us like Messi :-). Your poem was good too and I like the expression - football widow's :-)

  3. Thank you, Shanthi - I really am glad I could catch your attention :-) We can watch a game together one time!

  4. You tickled me
    (and you are the only one...
    who could ever make me
    read an essay about football.)
    I laugh
    and laugh like a drain
    as usual
    when I get the rear chance to enter into your head

  5. Great poem, Fornavn! Let me take a shot: Was it Lionel on the zebra skin that made you laugh most? I am sure that shot was taken in his most unassertive hour.....

  6. No actually it was the one above...
    The one on the zebra skin just made remember
    why I am single...

    but then of course
    who am I to brag over my lucky lot in life,
    so I rushed - or rather blushed - and praised all the heavens for giving me
    such an extremly good karma

    Poem? Heh?!? Its the way I am talking, darling...You could have noticed it, if you could focus on other objects than football...:-)

  7. Hallelujah! Then Praise Be to the Lord! You speak in poems, without knowing. Cheers to your singlehood; from now on you are Fortuna Karma :-) But don't be so harsh on Lionel. It was just a bad day at work....

  8. This article needs to be read by Ronaldo so he can see how the world sees him. Messi is what football should be about, Ronaldo is what football is about today - greed.

    If Ronaldo returned to United where he enjoyed his best days - winning titles - he could redeem himself.

    He won't though, he is far to much of a cunt.

  9. Thank you, Anonymous. I have a lot to say about this issue, because I feel the same as you, obviously. I wish there were more Messis around to show that there is another way of being.