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The easiest answer
would be because of my daughter,
my Catalan family.
But if someone seriously asked me
why I am staying in Barcelona,
in these awful and boring times,
I would say it is because
I am 40 minutes away by train
from the best football of the entire history.
I mean, if my wife and my daughter
decided to return to our home country,
Argentina, right away,
I would get a divorce
and would stay here until the Champions League finale, at least.
And I say so because
I think football has never witnessed
a team like this one,
not in any other era,
and it is very possible that it will not, ever again.
It is true.
I am writing this in the heat of the moment.
I am writing this in the same week
Messi scored a hat-trick for Argentina,
five goals in a game for Barca in Champions League,
and two more goals in La Liga.
Ten goals in three games,
in three different tournaments.
Catalan press does not talk about anything else.
For a while, the economic crisis
does not open the TV news shows.
And in the middle of all this,
I happen to ideate this theory,
very strange, very hard to explain.
But I will try to explain it by writing,
and see if I can shape it.
It all started this morning:
I was watching Messi goals in Youtube over and over again.
And I feel guilty about it, as
I should be writing for my magazine deadline.
I should not be watching this.
Suddenly, I click on this video.
I had not seen it before.
I thought it was another of those thousands of videos,
but I quickly realized it was not.
It did not show Messi's goals, or his assists,
or his best interventions.
It was a strange video:
it showed hundreds of images
-two or three seconds each-
where Messi gets fouled over and over again,
and he does not fall.
He does not dive.
He does not complain.
He does not look for a freekick or a penalty.
In every single image,
he would not take his eyes out of the ball,
as he finds his balance.
He makes inhuman efforts to avoid being fouled,
or to prevent the rivals getting a yellow card.
Those are many pieces of ferocious kicks,
obstructions and stamps on his foot,
I had never seen them all together.
Messi would take the ball
and get a horrible kick on his leg,
but he would go on.
He would get fouled in his ankles;
he would trip, and then continue.
Someone would grab him by his shirt;
he forces himself out, and goes on.
I suddenly stayed there, in shock,
as something of this seemed too familiar to me.
I played the video in slow motion
and saw Messi's eyes
were always focused on the ball,
not the football or its context.
Football these days has clear rules:
falling to the ground
often gives you a penalty;
a yellow card to a rival centre back
would help you in future counter attacks.
In those images, Messi doesn't seem
to understand these rules, or football at all.
He seems to be under a spell,
like he was hypnotized.
He only wants to get the ball in the other teams goal.
He does not care about the result, the sports or the regulation.
You have to look right into his eyes to see this:
seems to be cockeyed,
like if he is having problems to read a subtitle;
he would focus his eyes to the ball and
would not lose the sight of it,
not for anything in the world.
Where had I seen that look before?
That gesture of endless introspection was familiar to me.
I paused the video.
Then zoomed to get a closer look to his eyes.
And then I realized:
those were Totin's eyes,
when he used to lose his mind for a yellow sponge.
When I was a kid, I had a dog called Totin.
Nothing would bother him.
He was not a smart dog.
If a buggler broke into our house,
he would watch him take the TV.
If someone rang the door,
he would not seem to listen.
If I was sick,
he would not cheer me up.
However, if someone
-my mother, my sister or myself-
grabbed a sponge,
a certain yellow sponge we used to wash the dishes
Totin would get crazy.
He wanted that sponge more than anything in the entire world.
He would die to take that yellow piece to his bed.
I would take it and show it to him and
he would not stop looking at it,
not even if I moved it one side to another.
He would not get his eyes out of it.
It did not matter how I moved it,
Totin's neck would always follow the movement.
His eyes would get Japanese,
Just like Messi, whose eyes
would stop being a dazed teenagers eyes
and, for a second, would become
Sherlock Holmes's scrutinous look.
So this afternoon, watching the video
I discovered Messi is a dog.
Or a man-dog.
That is my theory,
I apologize you had to go all this way
to find it out, and had greater expectations.
Messi is the first dog that plays football.
So it has much sense that
he does not understand the rules.
Dogs would not fake an injury if a Citroen passes next to them.
They would not complain to the referee
if a cat escapes from their chase.
They would not force a second yellow card
for the postman.
In the early years of football,
humans were that way too.
They chased the ball and nothing else:
cards did not exist,
there was no offside,
nor the one-match ban after five consecutive yellow cards,
nor the double value of visitor goals.
Football was played like Messi does today.
Like Totin did.
Then football became too strange.
Today, everybody seems much more interested
on football burocracy, its regulation.
After a big match,
people would talk about rules for a week.
Did Juan force a yellow card
so he can play the Clasico next week?
Did Pedro dived in the area?
Would the Committee allow Pancho play,
if he invoques the 208 clause that indicates
Ernesto was playing the U-17?
Did the local coach asked the grass
to be watered too much
so the visitors would slip and break their skulls?
Did the ball boys disappear when the game was 2-1,
and suddenly appear when it got 2-2?
Will the club appeal Paco's double yellow card?
Did the referee added enough minutes
after Ricardo protested Ignacio's reconvention
due to Luis's deliberate waste of time,
while he was throwing in a side kick?
Dogs do not listen to the radio.
They do not read the press, and
do not understand whether it is a friendly match or a Cup final.
Dogs will always want to take
the yellow sponge with them,
even if they are about to go to sleep,
or if flees are bothering them.
Messi is a dog.
He breaks records from a different era
because man-dogs played football only until the 50's.
After that, FIFA forced us to talk about rules and clauses,
and we all forgot the most important thing of all
is the yellow sponge.
So one day, this "sick" kid emerged.
As one day a "sick" monkey stayed stood
and the history of men began.
This kid from Rosario has changed this sport,
a kid with different skills.
Unable to speak right,
and unable of anything related with human wiliness.
But armed with an amazing talent
to keep for himself something round-shaped,
and take it to a net at the end of a green prairie.
If people let him, he would not do anything else.
Taking that white sphere
between those three sticks all the time,
like Sisifo. Over and over again.
After he scored five goals in a game, Guardiola said:
he will score six when he wants.
It wasn't a praise,
but an objective expression of a symptom.
Lionel Messi is a sick guy.
But his sickness is strange,
and it moves me,
as I loved Totin
and now he is the last man-dog.
And to monitor that disease,
evolving every Saturday,
that is the true reason
why I am still in Barcelona,
even if I want to live somewhere else.
Everytime I go to the Camp Nou
and I see the that enlightened grass glow,
in that moment that reminds us of our childhood,
I repeat to myself the same sentence:
Jorge, you have to be too lucky
to love this sport so much,
to live in the era of its best version,
and more so,
to live so close from the pitch where it's played.
I enjoy that double fortune.
I cherish it,
and I feel nostalgic of the present
every time Messi plays.
I am a true fan of this place in the world
and this historic moment.
I imagine that one day, I and all humans that have lived and will live,
we will stand there for our final hour
and we will form a circle to talk of football.
And one of us will say,
"I studied in Amsterdam in '73"
Another one will reply:
"I was an architect in Sao Paulo, in '62"
And another one will remember:
"I was a teenager in Naples in '87"
My father will say
"I was in Montevideo in '67"
And another guy, a bit older, will tell
"I listened to the silence at the Maracana, in the 50's".
All of them will proudly tell
about their football battles and war hounds
until the early morning.
And then, when there is nobody left to speak,
I will stand up and will quietly say:
"I lived in Barcelona
in the times of the man-dog".
And then there will be silence.
Everyone else will put their heads down.
And then God will appear,
and pointing out at me, He will say:
"You, the chubby one.. you are saved.
The rest of you, to the dressing room".