I fell asleep after watching a rather tepid Wimbledon final where Andy Murray made up for his country’s premature exit from Euro 2016 and the impending gloom that Brexit has wrought over their already gloomy weather. It is another matter that the citizenry that didn’t know what it voted for and are now bracing for a long ride through even more rough financial and political weather. The plan was to grab some shut eye and wake up for the finals at 1 a.m. Didn’t happen, and I cussed myself even more when I woke up and saw what had transpired.
France would win 2-0. That was the bold prediction I made and no doubt the prediction that most bookies made, give or take a goal. France had everything on their side; the crowd, the odds and history. Portugal had never won a major tournament and Cristiano Ronaldo, like any icon, knows that the final stamp on a career, however great, is a major trophy in the cabinet. The Ballon D’Or doesn’t send an entire country headlong into night long revelry like victory in a major tournament does.
A few weeks ago, Lionel Messi announced his shock retirement after missing a penalty in the finals of the Copa America. Though everyone hopes it is a decision made in haste and such decisions can be salvaged when reason enters the door through a small opening, it was a telling statement. Messi, it seems, has lost the heart to thrown his heart and soul into the ring once more. Fighting with Diego Maradona for the status of Argentinian football icon, the dream of winning a major trophy for his country seems to be eluding him by the tournament. Diego Maradona will always have the summer of 1986 to call his own, the year in which he delivered a World Cup victory for his country, scored the goal of the century and played devil with the infamous hand of god goal. Lionel Messi came within touching distance of immortality in the 2014 World Cup finals when a well-oiled Germany swept the dream away from below his feet.
Lionel Messi is 29 and Christiano Ronaldo is 31. They are football’s current reigning stars by some distance at the moment. For all their insane talents, they are currently on opposite ends of the totem pole. One is currently on top of the galaxies and the other is trying to find a hole to dig and bury himself in.
Remember a 17 year old Cristiano Ronaldo crying when Portugal were handed a shock defeat in the 2004 Euro finals? It looked like things weren’t going to be any different last night. He didn’t even have to wait for the final whistle for the tears to flow. His match ended 24 minutes into the first half and the stretcher he was carried on seemed to be the heaviest in the whole world as it carried on it the thread that bound a country with its unfulfilled hopes and dreams.
You’ve seen it in sport and in life; the star player is expected to carry the burden, the expectations and the team to safety and glory. Everyone else can be excused from scrutiny but not the talisman. Come the big day and the player who is supposed to make the big stage their own and stand under the arc lights with the trophy doesn’t live up to their billing. Injury, bad decision, bad shot, bad luck, one or all of them come in the way to douse the unreal expectations that have been building up like a volcano about to explode. Teams then run for cover and plunge headlong into a sea of hopelessness. If Portugal had lost, Cristiano Ronaldo’s premature exit from the game would have been the biggest reason that would have been touted for their loss. Investing all hopes on one player to rise to the occasion and save the day is like putting all your money on a stock and seeing the stock go bust.
How can you expect a team to win when their talisman and captain is on a stretcher instead of on the field?
Eder’s goal was reminiscent of Ronaldinho’s stunner against England in the 2002 World Cup. Portugal’s least likely hero seemingly appeared from thin air to etch his name in the history books. On this fateful night, Portugal’s most likely hero watched from the benches as his team made history. Portugal lost to Greece on home soil 12 years ago and won against France on their home soil. Portugal, meet salvation.
Will Lionel Messi, the star of stars, ever experience what Eder, football’s unlikeliest hero experienced? That of winning and bringing your country to near rapture?
Maybe the stars aren’t aligned in his favour.
Maybe for those 120 odd minutes, the stars suddenly changed positions and aligned in Eder’s favour.
Nonsense. There is no such thing as the stars aligning in your favour.
On the night Portugal celebrated their greatest nights ever, I was in dreamland (considering it was Monday morning, nightmare land seems more plausible) instead of witnessing history first hand.
The stars were shining for Portugal but sadly, they weren’t aligned in my favour.