Will Lionel be the Messi-ah?

LIONEL ANDRES MESSI . This is the one name doing the rounds in almost every football discussion these days. Not a surprise, considering that the Holy Grail of Football- the WC 2010 to be held in South Africa, is right here at our doorsteps.

As is usual with every WC, the fans are on the lookout for the one man who will stamp his authority on this edition of the WC. But never in recent memory have we seen one man’s name being chanted with such a crescendo and this not by just the fans but by most players, coaches and former greats as well. Such has been the magical effect that this diminutive footballer has woven around people. His style, speed and skills have left no one in doubt as to what he is capable of doing with a football. The way he has changed the nature of many a matches for Barcelona (his current club), is proof enough!

But will he be able to live up to the expectations of a demanding sports loving nation like Argentina? The pressure of the fans, his peers, all of whom are expecting nothing less than a repeat of Mexico 1986, when another diminutive Argentine named Diego Maradona had single handedly brought glory to his country. And fortunately or unfortunately, it is the same Maradona who is Argentina’s coach now. Maradona, who himself has regularly been in the eye of the storm for a variety of reasons, has also gone to the extent of anointing Messi as his successor.

Argentina coach Diego Maradona, right, blows a whistle as he stands next to forward Lionel Messi during a training session on Wednesday. (Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images). Picture courtesy: http://www.cbc.ca.

With such huge burden on his young shoulders, it remains to be seen whether Messi will be able to cope with all this attention and still go on to achieve the ultimate prize in world football. But some people might be hoping for the contrary to happen, especially considering Maradona’s veiled threat to run naked around Buenos Aires’s city centre if they win the cup !!! Whether or not Messi can emulate his idol (hope it is limited to lifting the WC only :D), but millions of people across the world will surely be praying that he indeed turns out to be their Messiah.