ROSARIO, MAY 28,
Right before kickoff, the plasma TVs were still tuned to a tennis match on mute instead of the Barcelona game at a nearly empty bar owned by Lionel Messi’s family in his Argentina hometown.
The only clue at the bar were some photos of Messi. No one seemed to care about the game until a couple walked in hurriedly and asked a waiter to change the channel. The college students from Germany had saved for months to travel on a pilgrimage to their idol’s native city. By this point they were disappointed- they had seen no Messi statues, plaques or museums. Nothing.
“It seems like I feel more for Messi than Rosarinos,” Oshin Gharibi, 32, said as he watched the match next to his girlfriend, Lena Wagner, 23. She wore a Barcelona shirt adorned with Messi’s number 10 on the back.
“Messi is such a big star from such a small place,” Gharibi said. “How can you not give him the recognition that he deserves?”
It’s a mystery that confounds many. Cristiano Ronaldo has an airport named after him on his Portuguese home island of Madeira; Pele has his museum in his Brazilian native city of Santos; even Rocky Balboa – a fictional boxer- has been paid homage with a statue in Philadelphia. So why does Rosario seem to have an ambivalent relationship with the world’s most famous footballer?Many here seem to come back to the same theories- a soccer-mad city divided by the rivalry of its two beloved clubs; the comparisons to Diego Maradona; and the idea that anything but winning is worthless. In a decade of winning trophies for Barcelona, the best player of his generation has yet to deliver a World Cup for Argentina – as Maradona did in 1986. Russia might be the last chance for Messi, who will turn 31 during the tournament.
ROSARIO, MAY 28,