NEW YORK – Dear Lionel Messi:
As one of your greatest fans I plead with you: Stop winning titles and recognition. Those who write about you cannot find any more adjectives: A new language will have to be invented since all the superlatives have already been used to describe you. You are not only one of the greatest sportsmen ever, but you are also a generous player. By also winning the Laureus World Sports Award, widely considered the “Oscar of Sports” you have shown again that your achievements belong to history.
A note to the reader:
South African businessman Johann Rupert, chairman of the luxury goods company Richemont, proposed the creation of an organization “based on the principle that sport can bridge the gaps in society and change the way people look at the world.” His proposal found a sympathetic ear in Daimler AG, the German multinational automotive corporation headquartered in Stuttgart. In 1998, such an organization was created and was called Laureus, a word derived from the Greek for “laurel.”
The Laureus World Sports awards is an annual ceremony that honors individuals and teams from the world of sports for sporting achievements throughout the year. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation supports over 160 community projects in more than 40 countries. The projects supported by the foundation aim to use the power of sports to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage.
“Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair,” said Nelson Mandela in 2000 at the first Laureus awards ceremony, in a speech considered iconic.
On Feb. 17, Messi won the award together with Lewis Hamilton, a British six-time Formula One World Champion, widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport, and considered by some to be the greatest of all time. Hamilton couldn’t hide his pride in being honored together with Lionel Messi. Messi and Hamilton won the award over such illustrious sportsmen as tennis player Rafael Nadal and golfer Tiger Woods.
In the meantime, Messi continues winning awards and fans all over the world and playing like a kid in a toy store. He now has 34 titles in La Liga and Spanish Super Cups; he is a Golden Shoe winner in all Europe for the third season in a row and sixth overall, and he is the first player to ever reach the 400-goal plateau in the Spanish First Division. In addition, he has the most wins in the history of La Liga, the top soccer league in Spain. He was the first player to score in six different Copa del Rey finals, and he has 477 wins across all competitions, among many other accomplishments.
As if this were not enough, Circle de Soleil has created a whole show based on him. Not a small accomplishment for a player short in stature but tall in ambition. That he has become a figure as well known as he is now hasn’t changed him the least. He continues to be the most exciting soccer player of our times.
The following words perfectly describe Messi, and show why he is unique among all players: “I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I’m more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with? When I retire, I hope I am remembered for being a decent guy.”
So, Lionel Messi, please, next time you are ready to win another title, think about your poor writer-admirers, who are at a loss for words to describe you. From now on, we’ll have to create a new language to describe you. But we’ll do it with pleasure, the same pleasure we have watching you play.
Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also a Messi fan.