Monday, June 5, 2023

The friend with whom Messi exchanged World Cup 94 stickers now sees him as a champion

Rosario (Argentina), 20 December (EFE). He was one of the kids in the La Bajada de Rosario neighborhood who grew up with Leo Messi. They are of the same age and studied in the same school. More than two decades later, in the streets that united them, Walter Barrera recalls how the dream of being at the World Cup he talked about when he saw the USA ’94 statues (stickers) ) was more than complete.

“Playing idols here is unbelievable, in the 94 World Cup, I remember, we must have been 7 or 8… to talk about what it’s like to be at the World Cup, to see it and experience a world final, ” He told EFE, friend in hand, this guy, who is 35 years old, admits that in childhood, with Leo and the rest of his friends, he had “the best memories” of his life.

A Place With “Magic”

The neighborhood where the captain of the Argentine team, world champion since last Sunday, lived with his parents and siblings from the time of his birth until his departure for Barcelona in 2000 is already history.

With humble-looking but well-kept houses, La Bajada – the name residents officially call the sector of the neighborhood where Messi’s home is located – has a special sanctuary in honor of the idol.

And Walter defines it as: “This neighborhood has magic, beyond Leo, it has magic! It attracts, it has magnetism, people come. Obviously it’s because of Leo, eh (laughs) )”, he explains, and adds: “Our group, a small group of people who grew up from childhood until he left, we must be five, not many”.

With many residents still from the time when the star ran through the streets after the ball, La Bajada is full of pictures and signs of ‘La Pulga’: “We are at a very symbolic place for Rosario, Argentina and the world.” are,” says Barrier.

The most notable ‘Christian’ points are the modest two-storey house where Messi lived – which remains preserved despite not being inhabited, with pennants and the Argentine flag hanging outside – and the small vacant lot located a few meters from the house, where, As Walter remembers, they played at that time.

“Normally, the great people here, our old people, had a soccer field, and they would come every day to play games, or they would play during the week. Later it became a garbage dump, over the years We recycled it and made a club”, he recalls teaming up with ‘Messi Boy’ painted on a wall, now filled with murals of the football legend.

A few years ago a symbolic space was transformed into El Campito, a club where sports and cultural activities are encouraged among children, and of which some of young Lionel’s friends are a part: “People took advantage of it and put their Garbage thrown away. … There were many things that were not good so we decided to take a little precaution among all the neighbors and fix the place”, he explains.

“A Beast Since I Was a Boy”

With the discretion that usually characterizes all of those considered the best footballers in history, when asked if this group of friends would continue to hang out with Messi when he visits Rosario, Walter Said, without going into details, a brief: “Obviously.”

And he shares his most special moment with his friend, whom he says “never changes” despite everything he’s achieved in his career: “I have one afternoon left that he returned from Spain was, that he was still in La Masia (Barcelona youth academy) and we met and he brought us some gifts … and we talked, and I gave him a medallion of the Virgin of Rosario, with which I will take it “.

“I have it very normal, I’ve known him since I was a kid, but I understand the magnitude and the power of the word that is Leo. I understand, I see the madness. Crazy thing to explain.” It’s kind of normal to me but it’s crazy at the same time, it’s Leo”, he says.

Planetary Footballers for him, “a beast from a young age till now, everything you imagined and much more”, and he revealed how “impressive” it was to watch him play as a boy, “It Something was different”.

“Whatever happens, we kill him,” he says, and admits that, despite the fact that Messi even said it was his last World Cup, he “Would love to keep playing him forever.”

Rodrigo Garcia

Times of National
Times of National
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