Sunday was a store-it-up-for-the-grandchildren type of day, the kind in which
you immediately and intuitively know that the events will be replayed and retold
hundreds of times over the ensuing months, years and, indeed,
Being in the presence of greatness has the tendency to conjure
up such feelings, and meeting Lionel Messi certainly qualifies as such a
The transcendent Argentine soccer star was in Jerusalem on Sunday
with his Barcelona teammates, visiting the Western Wall and then attending an
exclusive meet-and-great ceremony at the President’s Residence before rushing
off for a late-afternoon soccer clinic with Israeli and Palestinian youth at
Kfar Hamaccabiah in Ramat Gan and an evening event at Bloomfield
For Messi, the fanfare accompanying his every move must be
second nature to him at this point. To most of the people he interacts with,
however, it is a memory of a lifetime.
There are few athletes in history
– across all sports – who have captivated the world and become the cultural
phenomenon that Messi is now, still in the prime of his career at 26 years of
Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt
and Michael Phelps are recent examples that come to mind, however as soccer is
the world’s clearcut No. 1 sport, Messi’s appeal would have to be considered
even more widespread than any of those aforementioned legends.
considered by commentators, coaches and colleagues as the best soccer player in
the world and one of the greatest in history, the Messi legacy is growing by the
When one thinks about what characteristics make a sportsman great,
the notion of dominance comes to mind. In the sense that dominance means
breaking records, scoring more than others, winning more than others, and being
awarded the highest individual honors in one’s sport, Messi has that covered in
By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d’Or and FIFA World
Player of the Year nominations. The following year, in 2009, he won his first
Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He followed this up by
winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, and 2012. He also won the
2010/11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. At the age of 24, Messi became
Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions.
25, Messi became the youngest player to score 200 La Liga goals.
don’t worry, we’re just getting started.
Messi is the first player in
soccer history to win four FIFA/Ballons d’Or – all of which he won consecutively
– as well as the first to win three European Golden Shoe awards. Messi has won
six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions
Leagues, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups. In March 2012, Messi made
Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one
match. He also matched the record of 14 goals in a single Champions League
season. Messi became the first player to top-score in four successive Champions
League campaigns. Messi set the European record for most goals scored in a
season during the 2011/12 season, with 73 goals. In the same season, he set the
current goal-scoring record in a single La Liga season, scoring 50 goals. In
March, Messi scored in his 19th consecutive La Liga game, becoming the first
soccer player in history to net in consecutive matches against every team in the
About the only thing missing from his resume is a World Cup
title, but he should have at least two, if not three, more chances to put that
It is much more than just the numbers and a list of
accomplishments, however, that make Messi one of the all-time greats.
soccer is, in fact, the beautiful game, as is it oft dubbed, then Messi is the
beautiful player who seems to have been created explicitly to play
It is his warrior’s heart combined with an artist’s grace, his
ability to summon up a seemingly mythical flair for the spectacular or take the
unimaginable and make it reality.
Messi’s brilliance lies not in his
physical prowess – he stands at just under five-feet-six-inches and not even 150
pounds – but in his ability to turn into a magician with the ball glued to his
shoe and capture the hearts and imaginations of billions with his enthralling
feats in a game everyone can relate to.
Like many true sporting icons,
the soft-spoken Messi is content to let his play on the field do most of his
Sunday’s interaction with him was no different. No
speeches, declarations or comments. Just a brief handshake among the throng of
fans, a quick thumbs-up, that impish grin.
And just like that, he was
back on the bus and gone.
Gone, perhaps, but the experience never to be