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Watch: Lionel Messi emotional 'CRY' after heartbreaking loss in Copa America final

Jun 27 '16 | By La Afrique Media | Views: 1214 | Comments: 0

, like I suspect the rest of the world, was surprised when Lionel Messiannounced his retirement at the age of 29 from the Argentina national team after another devastating loss in a cup final.

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I can’t help but think: What’s surprising is that he hadn’t stopped playing for Argentina earlier.

Argentina has made Messi the team captain, the star, the savior. He bears all the responsibility of the best player on a team that is soccer-obsessed and expects to compete for every trophy. With all that pressure, though, what exactly has Argentina done for him?

EPA Photo by Larry W. Smith

EPA Photo by Larry W. Smith

This is a country whose club teams refused to pay for Messi’s medical treatment when he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency at the age of 10, forcing his family to seek the best for the young man and hook up with Barcelona, the only club and soccer family he’s known since he was in grammar school.

A country that took that decision and held it against Messi, though the decision was the correct one and made when Messi was just 13 years old. Messi is routinely criticized for not being Argentinian enough … there is the belief, to this day uttered by petty fans, that he is more Spanish or Catalan than Argentinian.

A country that is still obsessed with Diego Maradona, a genius in his time who has turned into a boorish, spiteful middle-aged man. Maradona is probably the second greatest to ever play the game, after Messi himself. But after being forced out as Argentina’s coach, Maradona now is only a step away from openly celebratingArgentina’s failures, especially those of Messi.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

A country whose FA is such a corrupt and poorly run organization that FIFA took the extraordinary measure of putting it under administration. FIFA, not exactly in the best shape itself, is actively running the country’s chief soccer organization because it hasn’t shown an ability to manage itself.

And Messi is supposed to want to play for Argentina? It’s no accident that not only did Messi announce his retirement after the Copa America final — Javier Mascherano did as well, with reports that Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria may follow them. Four of Argentina’s best players, Mascherano the oldest at 32 (Messi, Di Maria and Aguero are all under 30) could be walking away from the national team right in their primes. If one player does it, maybe he’s being a quitter. When four threaten to leave, that’s a message.

EPA Photo by Jason Szenes

EPA Photo by Jason Szenes

Messi has played 113 games for Argentina, scoring 55 goals. He has taken them to four cup finals and won the nation gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He has been repaid by being shamed for not winning those finals he reached, had his patriotism questioned and play criticized.

The penalty kick he missed in the Copa America Centenario final was a mis-kick, a mistake, but for Messi it may as well have been a sign. This wasn’t fun anymore. There was no need to put himself through this any longer.

I’m certain Messi will play in an Argentina jersey again. The FA will re-organize itself. The organization will apologize, promise to change its ways, and Messi will most likely forgive, forget, and do his best for his country, just as he’s done for the last 11 years. I’m not sure Argentina and its FA deserve it, though.

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