Lionel Kumar Messi Haaye Haaye


Lionel Kumar Messi Haaye Haaye

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré

The story of the day is that Lionel Messi is such a blinking twunt.

There’s a lot of hate being directed the way of the (former) captain of Argentina’s national football team, for retiring from international football after their loss to Chile in the Copa America final. He’s only 29, the bottler. Who does he think he is? Does he not know that he doesn’t get to decide when he wants to call it a day – we do? He’s a coward and a prickly prima donna who’s turning his back on his country when it needs him the most. How dare he! Deciding he can’t be champion, so why bother playing at all.

It seemed excessive at first, even if not entirely misguided. Then I began to wonder: What if Messi were the captain of the Indian cricket team hanging up his boots to focus on his thriving IPL career?

First off, his house – in Juhu or Carmichael Road or Golf Links, of course – will be pelted with stones by protestors chanting, “Leo haaye-haaye. Gali gali mein shor hai… Lionel Messi chor hai.” Life-sized Messi effigies will be burnt in the streets, bloody tears of anger used to douse the fire afterwards.

His wife will naturally be blamed for being a pesky woman (a woman, imagine!) trying to poison our national hero and sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. She has no right to interfere in such important, manly matters, and she’ll be told as much on social media, in between colourful debates about her genitalia. The kids will be sent home from school early with police protection because one of them gets walloped and the other bullied incessantly. By the teachers.

Day one will be spent insulting him. Op-eds on websites calling him a weakling would appear within hours, accompanied by a Photoshopped image of Messi’s head planted atop the body of a plucked chicken. Headlines: “Football in Mouth.” “What a Complete Mess.” “The Lion is Actually a Pussycat.”

In a matter of days, of course, the Pro-Choicers and Pro-Lifers will move on to something else to fight about and Messi will slowly fade into obscurity.

That evening, Messi will give a tearful, PR-directed press conference trying to explain the decision – how the missus had nothing to do with it and she’s a great wife and mother who makes excellent tea; how he loves India more than anything in the world; maybe he’ll claim a fake injury – to deaf ears. It’ll end with him proclaiming, “Bharat mata ki jai.” A photo of him staring into the camera, a blubbery mess, hands folded pleadingly, will make the front page of the papers the next day.

The photo will help turn the tide. The clueless liberal media, always pushing their agenda and partial to a staged story of heartbreak, will fight back on day two, defending Messi’s right to choose his own career path, even if it comes at the cost of tarnishing a legacy or India’s future on the cricket pitch. They’ll use other examples, like how Paul Scholes, another great Indian former middle-order batsman, retired early but no one complained when he was given an honorary seat in the Rajya Sabha. How we just need to suck it up and pay attention to the guys who still want to play for India.

This will escalate matters, leading to a digital back-and-forth. Salman Khan will be asked for a comment, and he’ll mumble “traitor” in an American accent. Shah Rukh Khan will say: “Watch my next film.” Sachin Tendulkar will be unavailable for comment. Ravi Shastri will, on an episode of Shaz and Waz, declare himself in the running for the now-vacant role of national team captain. Photos of the Messi family on vacation in Paris will appear in the tabloids.

The Delhi police will get involved, filing a sedition charge against Lionel Kumar Messi. The Mumbai police will investigate him for match-fixing and tax evasion. Sachin Tendulkar will be unavailable for comment. Finally, there’ll be a televised court martial against the five-feet nothing wunderkind. He will be asked to hand over his Aadhar Card to the Ministry of Anti-National Affairs, and provided a one-way train ticket to Pakistan. The earlier photo, of him crying and folding his hands, will make the front page again the next day. The headline will read: “A Treasonable Explanation?” And that’ll be that.

In a matter of days, of course, the Pro-Choicers and Pro-Lifers will move on to something else to fight about and Messi will slowly fade into obscurity. Come 2017, the latest season of Bigg Boss will feature “disgraced former Indian cricketer” Lionel Messi in the house, getting into turf wars with Raghuram Rajan.

And of course, RR will win.

Who knows though: Maybe that’s what’s happening in Argentina right now.