Sebastián Blasco,
Professor at Universidad Austral’s School of Psychology

Something happened at the Centennial Cup America. Perhaps it was Messi’s photo as the accused party at a Spanish court. Or maybe it was his growing beard, or Maradona’s remarks on his lacking character and personality. Who knows –it might have also been the relentless criticism after the match against Brazil.

What we do know is that, after the latest continental tournament, we have seen a different Messi –angry and assertive in his public statements at times, and smiling and happy at other times. We even saw him make a mistake and miss a decisive penalty shot. We saw him leaving alone, crying sorrowfully, giving up and quitting.

Just like Romero, he became a hero in the semi-finals against the Netherlands. After the 2016 World Cup in the United States, Messi turned human for the world’s sports fans. Of course, because, for a moment, we were under the impression that Messi came from another planet. For a moment, we pretended that he just lived to execute a number of moves that were part of a perfect gear, that he could not miss, that he was unbeatable. We believed he didn’t smile, cry or even enjoy.

He has been often criticized for not showing up at tough times. And yesterday he showed up; he shone brightly –not only with his game, but also with his drive as a leader, his moral bearing, his power, his inner being. This vital enthusiasm –eustress– is a passion that emerges when a path has been found and is captured. It is infectious.

Last night’s win brought some peace of mind, some relief, and it helped relax a tense predicament. Thus, the team can once again focus on its recent accomplishments to boost its confidence, turning the pressure into a behavior driver and enabling squad members to reconnect with their innermost desire to play soccer –enjoying the game.

Much has been said about the relevance of this match against Colombia’s national team. These past few days, we have heard several arguments on playing schemes, game strategies, players’ lists, etc.

However, was it really such a decisive match? Was the national squad “playing a life or death” game? Similarly, has this victory appeased the general public’s qualms? Does it solve the institutional crisis besieging Argentina’s team? Finally, why should success be measured by results?

Lacking a project, a goal to work for, people are bound to tangible performances or the emergence of a genius who magically fixes all their problems. Messi is a wizard without magic. Thus, faced with an unfavorable situation, there is no matrix to provide support, and despair sets in. All the pressure befalls the genius/savior, and he is asked for more than he can deliver.

Universidad Austral ranks among the world’s top universities under 50 and Latin America’s most renowned universities at the QS World University Rankings.