Desert Outtakes: What might have been for Lionel Messi, and what David Beckham didn’t say

The impassioned Argentinian journalist, the outraged Moroccans, and the annoying Olivier Giroud

More important than winning

“The World Cup final is coming and sure, all Argentinians want to win the cup. I just want to tell you that no matter the results, there’s something that no one can take from you, and it’s the fact you resonated with Argentinians, every single one. I’m being serious. There’s no kid who doesn’t have your team jersey, no matter if it’s a fake, real or a made-up one,” Television Publica reporter Sofia Martinez went off script during an interview with the great man Lionel Messi.

“Truly, you made your mark in everyone’s life. And that, to me, is beyond winning any World Cup. No one can take that from you and this is my gratitude, for the amount of happiness you bring to a lot of people. I seriously hope you take those words into your heart because I really believe that’s more important than winning a World Cup and you already have it. So thank you, captain.”

The tribute gives an insight into the inspiration Messi and his World Cup journey are providing back in his homeland. His response – with a smile – was equally heartfelt: “thank you so much, the truth is that I felt it, I felt it this whole time.” Just one version of the video has 1.6 million views on YouTube as Messi-mania really goes into overdrive in advance of Sunday’s final.

Messi the PE teacher

Lionel Messi’s first ever interview as a 13 year-old with Rosario-based newspaper Diario La Capital has resurfaced and also gone viral in Argentina and Spain.


Now a veteran, back then he was a prodigy playing for Newell’s Old Boys at the time, before his move to Catalonia to join Barcelona. Where the rest became history.

Aged 35 he’s about to play in his second World Cup final, he’s won seven Ballon d’Or awards, four Champions Leagues and the Copa América. But as a 13-year-old his ambitions were more modest. His footballing aim was “to play in the first division with Newell’s”. His dream job was to become a PE teacher, something you’d expect an aspiring GAA player to pick, not one of world football’s greatest young talents.

He also revealed in the Q&A-type interview that handball was his second sport and Baby’s Day Out was his favourite film, while his dad Jorge and his godfather Claudio were his heroes. Cute.

Just three years after this interview he made his debut for Barcelona.

In numbers

12 – Randal Kolo Muani‘s goal for France against Morocco means a player wearing every shirt number on the World Cup squad lists – from one to 26 – has now scored a goal in Qatar. Including an own goal from Germany’s Manuel Neuer.

In words

“I said to him, ‘Just stop!’ but he replied that he was instructed to follow me for the whole game.”

—  Moroccan midfielder Sofyan Amrabat says he had to have a word with Olivier Giroud during his team’s semi-final defeat as the French striker man-marked him.

Official complaint

In keeping with the never-say-die attitude of the Moroccan team throughout a remarkable World Cup journey that brought them to the semi-finals, with wins over Belgium, Spain and Portugal along the way, – the country’s FA has filed an official complaint to Fifa regarding the performance of referee Cesar Ramos in their defeat to France.

The referee made a number of controversial decisions, in particular when he showed Sofiane Boufal a yellow card for a foul in the French penalty area which appeared to have been a foul on him. They released the following statement:

“The Moroccan football federation strongly protested the refereeing of the Moroccan national team match against the French national team, led by Cesar Ramos.

“The FRMF sent a letter to the competent body in which it calls on the arbitration situations which deprived the Moroccan team of two indisputable penalties in the opinion of several refereeing specialists. The FRMF also expressed its great astonishment that the Video Assintance Referee (VAR) system did not react to these arbitration situations.

“The FRMF affirms that it will not hesitate to defend the rights of our team, calling for fairness in taking the necessary measures, regarding the refereeing injustice practised on the Moroccan national team in its match against the French national team in the semi-final of the World Cup.”

Swerve it like Beckham

Last month, in a video posted to social media, comedian Joe Lycett issued David Beckham with an ultimatum after it was reported the former player had signed a £10 million promotional deal with World Cup hosts Qatar. He requested for the former England international to end his deal or he would shred £10,000 of his own money.

The hoax, which was later revealed to be a stunt to raise money for charity, has finally got a response out of Beckham, or at least his PR team who say: “we understand that there are different and strongly held views about engagement in the Middle East but see it as positive that debate about the key issues has been stimulated directly by the first World Cup being held in the region.

“We hope that these conversations will lead to greater understanding and empathy towards all people and that progress will be achieved.”

Still no mention of LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar, where it is illegal to be a homosexual, still no word from Beckham on women’s rights, the abuse of migrant workers and the human rights record in the country he has been paid a massive amount of money to promote. Disappointing.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a former Irish Times journalist