Disclaimer: This is purely a piece of fiction. Any resemblance to a person living is purely coincidental
Lionel Messi and la Albiceleste are crowned the new holders of Copa America. A long wait has come to an end for their diehard fans. Argentina, for some reason is one team with a huge fan following in our state, Kerala in India. No one knows the exact reason for the fascination the team holds equally for a septuagenarian Communist leader and a school kid fan of Leo Messi. One major reason for this fascination for the older generations must be adulation for Diego Maradona and the series of unforgettable games played by his team at Mexico in 1986. Diego, highly emotional, immensely talented was inspiring his group of gifted players to give their best as a team. Valdano, Burruchaga or Pumpido, members of Carlos Bilardo’s world champions became household names after the World Cup that we saw in colour on TV. We have one great fan of la Albiceleste in our close friends circle. Forever loyal, emotional like him, he even had a striking resemblance to his idol, the great Diego from a certain angle. Although we watched and played many games together, he was always guarded when it came to games featuring Argentina. This became the norm after one unforgettable night 15 years ago when Argentina played Germany in the quarter finals of the 2006 World Cup. With his team progressing from the “group of death” as the toppers, he had made all arrangements for us to watch the game together at a leading club in the city. He arrived at the venue quite early and reserved the seats in the prime location within the hall. His entire family, including his Mother was to be seated on a rear table. Confident of his team doing good on the night, he was very cheerful and saw to it that everyone was comfortably seated to watch them play. Both teams were well balanced and evenly matched with Argentina developing their game around their midfield general Juan Román Riquelme and Germans led by Michael Ballack had, in their ranks, the lethal striking duo Klose and Podolski. With Riquelme commanding the midfield Argentina dominated the first half, rarely letting the ball reach the German strikers. First half ended goalless and he was very cheerful as we analysed the match during the interval. Argentina continued to press forward after the break and in the 49th minute, Riquelme delivered in a corner pin-pointing Roberto Ayala, who merely had to put his head on the ball, giving Argentina a 1- 0 lead. They appeared well on course for more, when abruptly, to our astonishment, Jose Pekerman substituted Riquelme with Esteban Cambiasso. An uncertainty or confusion descended on his face as the Germans pounced on the opportunity and suddenly started counter attacking. With Argentina falling back to defend, Miroslav Klose equalized for Germany in the 80th minute, moving him to the edge of his seat. Without Riquelme, Argentina was nowhere near the team they had been for the initial 72 minutes. Teams could not break the deadlock after the extra time and the match went into penalty shootout. With tension mounting and pressure building up, every German player successfully converted whereas the scorer of their goal in the regulation time Ayala and the substitute Cambiasso, failed for Argentina. He sat silently, heartbroken, inconsolable, refusing to get up from his seat. After much persuasion, he came out of the hall but with his family waiting for him to return home, he felt reluctant to face his family. Finally, the supporters of Argentina and Germany and the neutrals somehow managed to send him home. We have never before or since seen someone so devastated by the defeat of his favourite team, from a faraway land across the world that he had taken to his heart. Today, as Messi, and team brought down the canaries at Maracana on the back of an Angel di Maria strike, to lift the Copa and end a nearly 3 decade title drought, he celebrated alongside the several diehard Argentina fans from our place who burst crackers and distributed sweets. And we, his close friends and fans shouted “vamos la albiceleste” and said three cheers to their greatest fan.