By Aliyu Yakubu Yusuf
Ask any casual football fans what the biggest mystery in recent football history is. One of the possible answers would surely be Argentina not winning a senior international trophy for 28 years. Not since Gabriel Batistuta led the Albiceleste to the 1993 Copa America triumph has the country tested victory in any men’s senior football tournament. For the record, I began supporting Argentina in 1998 courtesy of my support for Serie A side, SS Lazio. During those years when the Italian league was at the apex of the European football ladder, Lazio had an Argentine contingent of Juan Sebastian Veron, Diego Simeone, Matias Almeyda, Jose Chamot and Nestor Sensini. Over the subsequent seasons, Hernan Crespo, Claudio Lopez and Lucas Castroman soon joined their compatriots at Lazio.
For 25 long, agonising years, I have witnessed all the inexplicable near-misses, heartbreaks and sheer bad luck of being a fan of Albiceleste. We have played no fewer than six consecutive major finals and lost all, often by the slimmest of margins: Copa America finals (2004, 2007, 2015, 2016), Confederations Cup final (2005) and World Cup final (2014). Of course, there many intermittent triumphs in the youth football tournaments such as the FIFA U21 World Cup (2001, 2005, 2007) and the Olympics (2004, 2008), but those serve to add to the frustration as to why a country with so much footballing history and so much footballing talent can’t get over the finish line in a major tournament.
It’s scarcely believable that Argentina failed to win a single trophy despite boosting elite players such as Veron, Riquelme, Saviola, Ayala, Heinze, Aimar, Pocchettino, Sorin, Zanetti, Samuel, Cambiasso, Crespo, Tevez, Zabaleta, Banega and Higuain. But, beyond all these players, I believe that if anybody deserves to win a senior trophy with the Albiceleste, it is Javier Mascherano. In my more than two decades of watching the team, no player epitomises the essence of the team better. His last-ditch tackle to deny Arjen Robben in the semifinal of the 2014 World Cup is a stuff of footballing legend.
Literally speaking, I have waited my entire life as an Argentine fan for this moment. And now that the agonising wait is over, I would like to congratulate the long-suffering fans of Argentina football team and the captain fantastic, Lionel Messi. In a way, Messi appears to transcend football boundaries of rivalries. It was reported that many Brazilians rooted for him to win the trophy against their own country, in their own country. For his detractors, the criterion for being the GOAT is nothing but an international trophy. And now that he’s laid his hands on one, we are waiting for them to bring another criterion.
Aliyu is a lecturer at the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via email@example.com.