The contrast between Messi’s popularity in Paris and Buenos Aires is unlikely to disappear for the Argentine superstar. His last game in the French capital, just after Paris Saint-Germain’s humiliating Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, began with taunts of their No. 30 by the Parc des Princes crowd. PSG subsequently beat Bordeaux 3-0, which did not quell dissatisfaction with the veteran and his teammate Neymar. But last week, Messi experienced a completely different greeting. Boca Juniors’ Bombonera Stadium is one of the most appealing stadiums in the world, with fans eager to give its idol a stunning applause, shaking every corner of the picturesque old stadium, and when the Argentine team Messi repaid the fans’ love for him with a goal and a solid performance in a three-goal victory over Venezuela.
Two 3-0 victories, but the stories behind each were very different. Messi felt the love of his adoring fans in his hometown and was a breath of fresh air after a cold reception in Paris. He’s not the only player to seek refuge in the national team when club games get too heated. “There’s a great team here. The fans love me so much and they keep showing me that. I’m so grateful,” the 34-year-old told reporters after the win. It helped. After the Copa America win, it was better. Everything was natural and it was easier on the pitch. Winning made everything better and easier.”
Nearly the same sentiment was expressed by Neymar, who shrugged off PSG’s pain by scoring in Brazil’s landslide victory over Chile in Rio de Janeiro. “The overcrowded Maracana motivates me, the overcrowded Maracana pushes me to do all this, it gives me joy,” the playmaker told Brazilian TV. “It was a huge surprise. . The atmosphere that the fans provided today was crucial for us to move further forward.” This sense of shelter is by no means unique to South America. On the other side of the Atlantic, Luke Sean and Paul Pogba are grateful to be out of their Manchester United woes, if only for a few days, as the criticism of English and French players for their frankness can only prove so view is correct.
Although the sample size is small, one conclusion can be drawn: for many, even the biggest stars in football, club games have become suffocating, harmful and almost unbearable. Part of the problem is clearly that top teams require an extraordinary physical effort. Between club and international competition, Messi played 60 games in his final season at Barcelona. Even in the current season, he could break the 40-game figure. Neymar’s problem with repeated injuries can be attributed, at least in part, to the torment of more than a week of games, coupled with the fact that he has been heavily defended by overly enthusiastic players in nearly every game. Pogba and Shaw have also broken down several times in their careers, both missing a period of time in the 2021-2022 season.
FIFPro, the world federation of football players, pointed out that there are so many games on club schedules that it is difficult for the average player to stay fit. A 2021 report (so far ignored) called for the introduction of mandatory breaks to protect their physical health. At clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, such demands are arguably more demanding. Here, failure is not tolerated, and the stars are expected to perform at their best every time they play. Although Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski is a consummate and reliable professional, he has been sharply critical of the current fixture list, telling Time magazine in 2021: “A lot of people forget about us. It’s people, we’re not machines, we can’t play at the highest level every day. It’s going to be a big problem for football and young players, staying at the top level for years because now and for the next two years, it’s going to be extreme : So many big games.”
Of course, the physical aspect is only part of the problem, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2017, FIFPro first warned professional footballers that depression and anxiety are rampant, with far higher rates than the general population, a problem that may only be exacerbated by the restrictions and subsequent demands placed on players. As sports psychologist Dan Abrahams told Athletes: “If you have players looking at the schedule right now and seeing the games crowded and knowing they’re not going to have a respite in the summer, you can start to feel that. A situation like, ‘I’m not going to have time to rest, I’m not sure I can handle it.'”
In addition to an already exhausting prospect, fans need the team to continue to succeed, and when they fail, players receive vitriolic criticism. Whether from the stands or, increasingly, from malicious, often anonymous accounts on social media, interspersed with personal or racially charged personal attacks. Nor is the problem limited to Europe’s biggest clubs. Independencia’s Domingo Blanco has revealed he was forced to take anti-anxiety medication after being targeted by the Argentine club’s own fans and even received death threats during tense contract negotiations. In Brazil, meanwhile, a spate of brutal attacks on players on and off football pitches has left several hospitalized and many begging authorities for more protection.
One of the most fascinating aspects of football is its ability to change results in the blink of an eye. Of course, not long ago, Messi’s situation was unclear: in Barcelona, Messi was worshipped as a demigod, but at home, Messi received a lot of distrust and criticism. His disappointment with the national team even led to his retirement from the national team in 2016 before changing his decision. Still, the fact that top stars have sought refuge in the national team should be seen as a warning to the club game, not least because those in charge seem to be paying little heed to the red flags. There are more races every year, with higher expectations and a greater chance of failure. In this context, it’s no surprise that Messi, Neymar, Pogba, Shaw and others are happier elsewhere.Return to Sohu, see more
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