One of the few things I carve out time for in my schedule is watching FC Barcelona (Barca) play soccer. Partly because they play the beautiful game, beautifully. The more important reason, though, is the orchestrator of that beauty. You know his name: Lionel Messi. I literally hold my breath every time he gets the ball. Every game he seems to pass another soccer milestone. And on Tuesday, December 22nd, Messi broke yet another record.
This one, however, might just stand above all the rest. Messi scored a goal in Barcelona’s La Liga match on Tuesday that brought his tally of Barca goals to 644. That is the most any player has scored for a single club. Ever.
The man who held the record before Messi? Pelé, who played 18 years for Brazilian club Santos FC. That record stood 46 years.
Why does this record stand above the rest? After all, Messi holds plenty of others: most Ballon d’Ors, most goals in a calendar year (91), La Liga’s all-time top scorer, and the list goes on. This one overtakes this one simply because the chances of it ever being broken are slim to none.
To put it in perspective, to reach 644 goals a player would need to score 43 goals per season for 15 years while playing for a single club. There will be others with a similar goal-scoring capacity as Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, has 654 goals to his name. But Ronaldo has played for four clubs in his career. But it’s only ever been Barcelona for Messi.
Earlier this year, the soccer world was sure Messi was going to leave FC Barcelona, including me. In fact, I wrote an article about it. The truth is I was sad to see Messi leaving because the type of loyalty he has shown FC Barcelona is rare, and it’s becoming ever more rare. Mainly due, I think, to how money influences the decisions of clubs and players alike. You can’t serve two masters.
It’s a wonder Messi is still at FC Barcelona. Throughout his career, Barca could have sold him off to the highest bidder. Yes, he’s the greatest, but his market value could have bought half a squad, and a good one at that. Add the fact that Messi could have been paid ever more handsomely than he already is to go to another club. 1 Yet, Messi has stayed. And he did long enough to surpass one of the longest standing records in the history of the game.
And since Messi decided to stay, especially this year when he’s experienced more doubt about his future about FC Barcelona than ever before, he has broken a record that might not ever be surpassed. There are few sports records which will stand for decades. Messi’s ‘most goals for a single club’ is one of them.
I’m grateful to witness such a record-breaking moment. In a time when I’m mourning the milestones being made with the pandemic and the politics and the environment, it is refreshing to experience a milestone worth celebrating.
I also love that this achievement came just in time for the Christmas season. It has acted as a light for me, something that I can look to and say proudly, “I witnessed the goal that set Messi above Pele.” I don’t think it’s exaggerating too much when I say this was a gift, not only for me, but for soccer fans everywhere. It was a light that peaked through the darkness of Advent, as if to say, “Remember the good! The beautiful! Celebrate life in all its blessings!”
Sometimes in prayer, I wonder why I care about soccer so much. It seems so insignificant and petty when I place it next to all the problems the world is facing. But then God assures me that soccer sparks my heart to life. It fuels my imagination and increases my desire to see something beautiful. And God is in that desire and in that beauty. One can imagine God celebrating things like Jesus first learning to walk as a toddler, or his first spoken words, or maybe his cultivation of his own special gifts and interests, whether carpentry or in studying the flowers of the field and the birds in the air. God is in all these normal, seemingly irreligious things, that fill us with life.
That’s because our God is the God of life! So if you find yourself struggling to see the light of Christmas, recall those “normal” things that spark a fire in your heart. Is it theatre? Celebrate your favorite director, actor or play! Is it biochemistry? Celebrate the wonderful discoveries of science. God is present in all things that inspire awe and wonder in us.
On this New Years’ Eve especially, let’s put on that hope that we will witness great things in 2021, something that will fill us with amazement and gratitude. Maybe it will be another Messi record (fingers crossed!). But I’ll also settle for something simple, like being able to give my friends and family a hug. That gives me life, too.
Photo by Chaos Soccer Gear.
Editors Note: article updated 31 December 2020, 9:39AM
- I think the astronomical salary that male soccer players make is ridiculous, but that is another article in itself. ↩