“Messi, Messi”

Lionel Messi put the ball down patiently, before taking three marked steps back. He wiped his brow and eyed the mass of players lined up jostling for position inside the penalty area a few yards away. He took a deep breath and around him, the ten thousand strong crowd at the Bangabandhu National Stadium all reciprocated.
Messi’s run-up was smooth, his delivery perfect. Inside the area, Nicolas Otamendi almost repeated the trick they pulled together on Friday but this time the ball sailed agonisingly beyond the defender and out to touch.
There was an audible gasp from the crowd who were hoping for something better from a training session that was charging a thousand taka per head. But throughout the evening session held under lights at the venue for the game, the Argentines were visibly muted, their moves and drills slightly lacklustre in nature.
It was understandable perhaps, given the fact that the focus of the session was more on consolidation. It is never easy playing two games within four days, especially not when the team is not really acclimatised to the conditions.
Head coach Alejandro Sabella admitted as much in the pre-match press conference held at the Ruposhi Bangla hotel.
“We only played two days ago against Venezuela. So the players really need to rest before tomorrow’s [Tuesday’s] game.”
But the crowd were hardly complaining. The main event is today, but yesterday there was still a humdrum in the air, a palpable feeling of excitement that was amplified and hung as heavy as the humidity. And every time Messi touched the ball, everyone exploded into life with cheers of “Messi, Messi”.
By all accounts, this was a historic day for Bangladesh football, if not Bangladesh sport.
Argentina’s arrival was evidence enough of what kind of day it would be in the city. As soon as the BG 092 flight of national carrier Bangladesh Biman landed, officers of the Civil Aviation Authority were seen deserting their posts to catch a glimpse of football’s newest sensation.
That was not all.
Outside, fanatics had gathered waving the blue and white colours of the Albiceleste with pride and joy. People kitted in jerseys were standing on top of the car-park hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of the successor of Diego Maradona.
Bangladesh football captain Biplab Bhattacharjee was one of the lucky few to be granted audience with the Barcelona forward and his teammates as he was part of the reception committee readied by the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF).
“I put a garland on Messi’s neck and welcomed him to Bangladesh and he smiled towards me,” said Biplob, visibly in awe.
“It was the biggest moment for my football career and I will never forget this moment,” said left-back Atiqur Rahman Meshu adding that he had even managed to capture some footage of Messi with his mobile phone.
Things were only more heightened after the team bus arrived at the premises of the Ruposhi Bangla hotel, which is set to be the temporary abode of the two-time world champions in the city.
Photographers and journalists were lined-up side by side with a plethora of fans who tried to sneak their way into the hotel to catch a glimpse of the heroes. They were all cordoned off by an emphatic police force determined to keep incidents to a minimum.
But no one could have anticipated the volcanic response to Messi’s disembarkation from the bus.
So enamoured were all with the two-time world-player-of-the-year that all and sundry rushed towards him screaming and waving leaving Real Madrid star Angel di Maria with a bemused look of amusement.
The players went into their rooms to freshen up but were soon down for an early lunch at 12:30 pm. And while coach Sabella made a quick stop for the required pre-match press conference, he too soon retired to his room for some rest.
If that was supposed to be a queue for the excitement to die down, most were very mistaken. A couple of hundred spectators still trudged around, tip-toeing across security and using every trick in the book to find a way beyond the security perimeter.
It was a long wait and the players only left their rooms at 6:20 pm to attend the hour and a half long training session at the Bangabandhu Stadium. But for many, all those hours of waiting was a small price to pay for a view in the flesh of the best player in the world.
Days like this don’t come along very often and as a certain Mirza Ahmad so eloquently put it minutes after catching a glimpse of his idol: “This is the best day of my life.”
Hyperbole perhaps, but there is little doubt that a sportsman of this magnitude has never graced Dhaka before. Zinedine Zidane was here, but the French maestro was on a business mission and although his brief fifteen minute interlude at the Bangabandhu Stadium will not soon be forgotten by those who were present that day, Messi against Nigeria today undeniably has higher stock value.
As a country, Bangladesh has been enamoured by the South American nation since the days of the legendary Maradona. Perhaps it was due to his vanquishing of the English, perhaps it was due to his vocally leftist views, perhaps it was just the way he played the game. But there is no doubt that this is a love affair that has been long and unbending. Today against Nigeria, it will finally be consummated. The least we could do is be there for it.

-With The Daily Star input

Related News

Cristiano Ronaldo received two-game ban, £50,000 fine for smashing fan’s phone

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Ronaldo, presently with Portugal for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, has been charged with improper behavior. There have been reports that Cristiano Ronaldo was fined £50,000 and suspended for two games by the Football Association after he knocked a fan’s phone on the ground. Man U’s former player was ... Read more

Cristiano Ronaldo will no longer be with Man Utd, effective immediately

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com After having his contract with Manchester United terminated, Cristiano Ronaldo will be leaving the club immediately. United released a statement on Tuesday saying, “Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect. “The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring ... Read more

Qatar becomes first host country to lose World Cup opener

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Enner Valencia scored twice in the first half as Ecuador defeated hosts Qatar 2-0 in the opening game of the World Cup 2022 on Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. Qatar set an unwelcome landmark by becoming the first host nation to lose a World Cup opening match, ... Read more

Introducing everything new at 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Female referees and 26-man squads will feature for the first time at the Qatar World Cup Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com The 2022 FIFA World Cup for men is quickly approaching. It has been almost 12 years since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the tournament, and on November 20, the first game will kick off. ... Read more

Ronaldo gets his lowest Ballon d’Or placement in 17 years

Has won award five times, Ranked 20th in 2022, His lowest finish in 17 years Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com In 2022, the Ballon d’Or awards seem significantly different because for the first time in 16 years, neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo had been on the podium. While Messi missed the shortlist for the first ... Read more

Men’s 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona becomes the first woman to win back-to-back Ballon D’or awards Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com France and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema won his first career Ballon d’Or on Monday, October 17, becoming the second oldest player to win the award at age of 34 and the oldest since Englishman Stanley Matthews ... Read more

FIFA rankings see surge for the reigning SAFF champions

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com In the most recent FIFA rankings for women’s soccer, which were revealed on Thursday, Bangladesh rose seven spots after winning the SAFF Championship for the first time last month. The women in red and green moved up in the most recent ranking, which was updated after August 5, moving from 147 ... Read more

Cristiano Ronaldo scores his 700th club goal in Manchester United victory

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Cristiano Ronaldo set a new milestone on Sunday night in the Premier League when he scored his 700th club goal of his career while playing as a substitute for Manchester United against Everton. It was Ronaldo’s 144th goal in United’s red jersey throughout the course of two spells at the club. ... Read more

Ukraine joins Portugal and Spain in their bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup

Welcome Ukraine to FIFA World Cup 2030 bid! it says in the press release from the meeting of the football federations Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Portugal and Spain added the war-torn Ukraine on Wednesday in their bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2030 “FPF (Portuguese Football Federation) and RFEF (Spanish Football Federation) incorporated ... Read more

Haaland adds brace to his tally as Manchester City rock Copenhagen

The Norwegian continued his incredible campaign despite being rested in the second half Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Manchester City defeated Copenhagen 5-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday to make it three wins in a row, as Erling Haaland maintained his remarkable goal-scoring form. The Norwegian just needed 45 minutes on the field to score ... Read more

Gonzalo Higuain declares his retirement

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Gonzalo Higuain is taking his shoes off. The Argentine striker for Inter Miami has declared his retirement from the game at the age of 34 and after three seasons in the Major League Soccer, where he scored 27 goals in 65 games. “The day has come to say goodbye to soccer, ... Read more

Banana thrown at Richarlison during Brazil’s 5-1 friendly win over Tunisia

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) reported that Richarlison was hit with a banana during a friendly match between Brazil and Tunisia in Paris. Tuesday’s 5-1 victory for the Selecao at Parc des Princes was the result of Richarlison’s second goal. However, news of a racist gesture made against the Tottenham forward ... Read more

Brazil beats 10-man Tunisia 5-1 in Paris

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Brazil’s exhilarating 5-1 victory over Tunisia at the Parc des Princes in Paris continues its international football tour Five goals, a penalty, and a red card were all part of the action-packed first 45 minutes that the French fans witnessed. Brazil went ahead, Tunisia pegged them back very briefly, and then ... Read more

Lewandowski to wear Shevchenko’s Ukraine armband at World Cup

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Robert Lewandowski, the captain of Poland, has promised to wear the Ukrainian colours on his sleeve during the World Cup to demonstrate support to the war-torn people of Ukraine, after receiving an unique blue and yellow armband from Andriy Shevchenko. The Barcelona forward met former Ukraine captain and head coach Shevchenko ... Read more

4-5 years of hard work behind this success: Sabina

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Sabina Khatun, the captain of Bangladesh, said that the success in the seven-nation 6th SAFF Women’s Championship was the result of the girls’ laborious efforts over the previous four to five years. When they arrived from Nepal on Wednesday, she stated at a press conference at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, ... Read more

PM orders house to be built for women’s goalkeeper Rupana Chakma

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Rupna Chakma, the goalie for Bangladesh Women’s Football team, will soon have a new home, thanks to orders from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Rangamati Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman confirmed the information, “The Prime Minister’s Office has given instructions to build Rupana Chakma’s home as soon as possible.We immediately dispatched an ... Read more

Ritu Porna Chakma suffers head injury in open-top bus ride, gets three stitches

She required three stitches to her head at the CMH and was later taken to the BFF house to join the team in the celebration Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com Ritu Porna Chakma of the Bangladesh women’s football team suffered a head injury after colliding with a banner when the team was traveling in an open-top ... Read more

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular Instagram star of the 2022 World Cup: report

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com The media value of a post on social media from the Portuguese star is $3.5 million on average Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo may not be as dominant on the field as he used to be, but he is unrivaled on social media, especially Instagram. The BBC reports that the Manchester United ... Read more

‘The people of Bangladesh own this trophy’

News Desk : dhakamirror.com The captain of the Bangladesh Women’s Football team, Sabina Khatun, dedicated the SAFF Women’s Championship trophy to the Bangladeshi people after their victory over Nepal 3-1 in the final on Monday at the Dasarath Rangasala in Kathmandu solidified their dominance of South Asian football. “Finally, it ended our long 12-13 years’ ... Read more

Bangladeshi women win their maiden SAFF title, making history

Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com In a thrilling final on Monday at the Dasarath Rangasala in Kathmandu, Bangladesh won their maiden SAFF Women’s Championship title with a 3-1 victory over Nepal. Forward Krishna Rani Sarkar scored a brace after super-sub midfielder Shamsunnahar (junior) opened the account for Bangladesh while Nepal forward Anita Basent pulled one goal ... Read more