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Messi goes, their love endures

Pratik Ghimire

Pratik Ghimire

Messi goes, their love endures

Pratik Ghimire of ApEx spoke to 10 diehard Barcelona and Messi fans to understand the recent upheavals in their fandom | CBS

Lionel Messi and Barcelona were synonymous. So the fans of one naturally became the fans of the other. But it would be safe to say that most of the current generation of Barca fans chose the club because of Messi, rather than the other way around. So when the holder of six Ballon D’Or had to leave FC Barcelona due to the club’s dire financial status, making the switch to PSG, those fans were left with mixed feelings. The news came hot on the heels of Messi’s sole major international trophy with Argentina at Copa America. Pratik Ghimire of ApEx spoke to 10 diehard Barcelona and Messi fans to understand the recent upheavals in their fandom.

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Binayak Bhattarai, 23

We had no television in our area in Dharan at the time of the 2006 World Cup, but somehow I had heard of Messi. Everybody used to talk of this Argentinian player and I started supporting him without even knowing how he looked. I first saw him during the World Cup of 2010 after cheering him on for almost four years blindly. That’s love, I guess.

Slowly, I started following club football. I still remember when I was in grade nine. My friends were Real Madrid supporters, and it was El Clasico. We had a bet of five rupees and Barca had scored five—one of my first and favorite memories with Messi. Most recently, Messi winning his first trophy with Argentina at Copa America was something special too.

I am yet to digest that Messi is no longer a Barcelona player. I saw PSG announce his arrival with a huge welcome. I am happy too as Messi has been able to unite PSG’s divided fan base even before his debut. He is the only player who can do that kind of thing.

Chhabin Dahal, 21

Messi was a regular name for me as my neighbors were huge Argentina fans. Influenced by them, I started following him starting with the 2010 World Cup. Sadly Argentina didn’t make it beyond the quarterfinals that year. Our area had installed a projector for the semis but for me the football festival was over. After that, I started going to cyber cafes to get the updates of La Liga games.

As a Messi fan I have seen many highs and lows. There have been some depressing moments supporting the team, but as soon as I see Messi play, I forget every other thing and enjoy a fresh start. Yet the 2014 World Cup final loss to Germany still stings, the Germans robbed us off the trophy.

I was confident that Messi would retire at Barca, but the circumstances didn’t allow that. But no worries, he now has a new challenge and he will show his worth at PSG as well.

Hema Giri, 19

This story begins in my school when boys used to compare Messi and Ronaldo and for no particular reason, I started chanting for Messi. When I started watching the game, I realized that his vision, touches, dribbling are out of this world. Aside from being a professional, he is a great human being, which we can see from the way he interacts with fans.

Every game Messi has played is special to me. But the game I recall most often was against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012, when he scored five and Barcelona won 7-1. Talking about the lows, like other Barca fans, I was heart-broken when the club announced his departure.

It still can’t get out of my head that he will play alongside Sergio Ramos, the bitter Real Madrid nemesis. I will definitely keep following Messi—I will never have enough of that majestic smile—but I also will never cheer for PSG.

Kritika Parajuli, 19

Like many, I started following Messi from the 2010 World Cup. The tournament didn’t go as planned but that was also the year the little man from Argentina made me fall in love with the game of football.

Most memorable for me is his 500th club goal in 2020, in what was a late winner at the Bernabeu, in the process of winning the El Clasico 3-2? When he held up his Number 10 shirt, standing against Real Madrid fans, gave me goosebumps I tell you. In 2016, Messi announced his retirement from international football following his third defeat in the Copa America final. Made me cry. Although he reversed his decision, I regret Messi had to go through all that.

I will never stop cheering for Barcelona because this is the club of my life. I won’t stop following Messi, either. Barca and Messi will always be thought of as one. I hope he comes back to the club—probably after a couple of years.

Nisha Karki, 20

I grew up with the people who used to cheer for Messi and to get along I did the same. But when I started watching the game, I realized what I did was 100 percent correct. No other player can play at his level. He is the greatest of all time, without a doubt.

Every time I see him on the pitch, I feel better about myself. Particularly, winning the sextuple in 2009 still makes me happy. Winning and losing are part of the game and Barca’s 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in 2020 was a team defeat, yet I felt so bad for Messi, in what was his most embarrassing defeat ever.

It would be shameful to withdraw support for Barca because of Messi’s departure, so I have decided to support both—Barcelona and PSG.

Rajnesh Shrestha, 21

I was randomly playing with the TV remote when I saw a small guy running past defenders with high acceleration. I watched him and loved every bit of the game and since 2008 became a fan of his.

In the World Cup qualifiers of 2018, Messi scored a hat trick against Ecuador. That was one of the most beautiful matches I have ever seen and in the recent Copa America winning campaign, too, I had tears of joy. I struggle to see Messi in a shirt besides Barcelona’s, but this is the hard reality, and something we must all accept now. But I cried the entire day when the news broke.

Although I am planning to watch Messi’s games at PSG, I am a proud culer and can’t even think of supporting any other club besides Barca.

Sachet Neupane, 22

There is a saying, “Guys will choose a random Football Club as their favorite in the fourth or fifth grade for no reason at all and decide to support it for the rest of their lives.” This applies to me. I randomly picked Argentina, and that led me to supporting Messi.

In 2017, April 24, my birthday, was also the night of the greatest football rivalry—El Clasico—at Madrid’s home-turf. The score was 2-2 and Messi stunned the crowd with a late winner in injury time. This is the best birthday gift I have ever received. On the other hand, the 2014 World Cup was a heartbreak for many fans and I was no exception.

Everything was sound with Messi’s saga. Both parties were determined to sign a new contract but, out of nowhere, the club announced his discontinuity. I couldn’t tell whether it was a bad dream. Initially, I thought it might be internal club politics but no, it was for real, which hurt. I will support Barca all my life but could still watch some PSG games to enjoy the magician at work.

Santosh Mishra, 46

This was before he came to Barcelona. I saw in a newspaper that a little boy was being compared to the legendary Diego Maradona, but I had not seen his game. After his debut in the Barca senior team, I saw Messi, and he instantly amazed me. I had started watching football in 1992 and this was the first time a player had impressed me.

The recent Copa America win was what was lacking in his resume and now things look complete. Among my many joys with Messi, it is at the top. Even if you play the best, sometimes a minor mistake will cost you the game. Similarly, Messi has lost several key games, which I find least enjoyable.

Many clubs bled during the Covid-19 pandemic and lost revenue. Barcelona could no more afford Messi, despite both parties’ willingness to be together. We have to accept the truth and enjoy the final years of Messi, no matter which club he represents. But I will keep supporting Barca as it has been my love since the early 90s.

Sitaram Dahal, 26

I started following Barca in the early 2000s and as I had no way of watching its matches, I used to go through the scores in newspapers. And that’s where, for the first time, I saw the iconic picture of Messi on the back of Ronaldinho. He had special gameplay, and I loved his every touch. And I had a chance to watch him at his prime.

Barca’s sextuple winning moment and the entire season that year were very special for me, but above all, Messi’s first international trophy, Copa America, nothing can beat that. This Copa brought joy because the previous one had left us in tears after Messi missed the penalty in the shootout against Chile in the final. But no regrets now—everything happens for a reason.

Messi is a silent guy. He doesn’t speak much. He was still on vacation and the news came that he couldn’t continue at Barca. The developments happened so fast. I choked up when I saw Messi crying at his farewell press conference at Barca. As a football fan, I keep myself updated on all major European top-flight football and this time, I will be a bit more concerned about PSG, that’s all.

Sudeep Aryal, 21

Messi, football, and Barcelona are synonyms for me. Messi is the reason I started watching regular football and Barca was where he showed his masterclass.

For me, nothing compares to his going to the crowd to celebrate Barca’s iconic 6-1 come-back against PSG in 2017. Now, the same PSG is his new home, which gives me mixed feelings. But I see that PSG will treat him well and he will be happy there, which is some consolation. Last year, he wanted to go, but Barca didn’t let him and now he wanted to stay but the league forced him out. I am so frustrated.

Well, it’s time to peek at the final score-sheets of PSG, no more than that. Barca is where my heart is.