There is a flipside to the Lionel Messi phenomenon. While the Argentine’s success is taking football to new levels of popularity, other team sports continue to take a hit.
Argentina is no stranger to hockey. The first recorded hockey match was in 1908, and since then the game has become a tradition. However, it doesn’t enjoy the legacy of the national sport, football, a fact reflected in the disappointing performance of the team. Despite having competed in every World Cup except for the 1988 edition, the South Americans’ best finish has been a lowly 7th.
“Kids watch football and idolise Messi,” shrugs Coach Carlose Retegui. “Hockey is yet to reach that popularity.”
However, Retegui knows the only way to make people take notice is by winning. And he has begun on a good note. Since taking over the reins in May last year, Retegui, or Chapa as he is fondly called, has been overseeing a revolution of sorts. Argentina defeated England, Korea and Pakistan to finish second in the World League semifinal in Malaysia, qualifying for the World Cup.
Retegui’s men continued their good run as they defeated giants Netherlands in their Finals opener in Delhi on Friday. “We have proved we belong in the big league,” Retegui said.
Who knows, they just might find a hockey counterpart to Messi in the process.