Along with the unabated popularity of football, growing still, fans across the world have kept the debate about their favorite players and teams alive through the past several decades. As a global sport, football has united millions of fans across the world in many ways.
In Nepal, it seems the urban youth these days are talking less about politics and more about football. For the youth of the Kathmandu Valley, fighting over their football icons is more of a pastime than discussing about who is going to be the next prime minister or which party has a better ideology.
You may find college students debating to prove the superiority of Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo or the other way round. As the football fanatics are waiting eagerly for the biggest carnival of football, the World Cup 2018 that is just two months away, such fighting has become more and more common.
Yes, Nepal has lots and lots of fans of the two football stars -- Messi, the Barcelona player from Argentina and Ronaldo, the Real Madrid player from Portugal. For these enthusiasts, football is like a religion and Ronaldo and Messi are like gods.
Since 2008, both Messi and Ronaldo have won FIFA Ballon’ d’Or for five times and have scored 50 goals in a calendar year. They have both managed to score centuries in UEFA Champion League. Both have scored 600 goals in their careers, playing for their respective clubs and national teams.
Not only fans, football pundit and legends such as Johan Cruyff, Arsene Wenger, Diego Maradona, Pele, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Zidane, and Sir Bobby Charlton are also eager to give their views about these two latest legends.
Of Ronaldo, English football legend Sir Bobby Charlton has said: “He does the things that I have never seen any other player doing. It is really marvelous to watch him.”
Pele, one of the biggest football legends of all times, has said of Messi: “I like him a lot, he’s a great player.”
For our own football fanatics, there are similar feelings about the two players. My City caught up with three youths of the Kathmandu Valley about their views of the two footballers.
For Sitaram Dahal, 23, a bachelor’s level student of social work at NIMS College, Kanibahal, Barcelona is the best football club and Argentina is the best national team. He is always in Barcelona outfit from top to bottom. His bedroom walls are painted Barcelona and even his bed sheet is Barcelona. In his own words, he is crazy about Messi. He even bought Huawei and Samsung mobile phones when Messi became the brand ambassador of those mobile companies.
Dahal thinks Barcelona and Messi are everything in his life. He never skips any match of Barcelona and Argentina. He broke down when Argentina was knocked out in the final of World Cup 2014 and Copa America 2015. His father was really worried when he shaved his head, as a sign of grief, when Messi announced his retirement from international football.
“I cried a lot and felt low when Argentina faced two defeats in a row. When Messi announced his retirement from international football, I couldn’t control my emotion. People were mocking me but I somehow survived that,” said Dahal.
“Messi is successful in Barcelona but he has failed to bring international trophy for Argentina, which makes me sad. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about the upcoming World Cup.”
According to him, comparing between Messi and Ronaldo is pointless because both players are special in their own ways. Messi is smaller in height but he is a real headache for the opponents due to his brilliant dribbling skills, whereas Ronaldo is one of the finest finishers in the current world football.
“Football is all about respect; not only I watch it but I feel it. We should just enjoy the beauty of the match by the greatest footballer of all times,” he said.
Bipin Khadka, 26, a cloud worker at Cloud Factory from Jawalakhel, is a fan of Ronaldo since 2003. He has never missed Ronaldo’s game since then. He has watched Ronaldo’s match even when it was well past midnight and he had to be at work early in the morning.
“Since childhood, I have been supporting Manchester United and Real Madrid football clubs. In 2003, there was a friendly match between Manchester United and Sporting CP where Ronaldo played brilliant football from Sporting CP. I started liking him since then. I remember that Sir Alex Ferguson and other Manchester players were impressed by the match and Ronaldo was signed by Manchester.”
Nishu Raut, 20, a bachelor’s level student of business at the College of Applied Business from Baneshwor, adulates Messi. She became Messi fan after watching the World Cup match between Germany and Argentina in 2006.
“I noticed the game of little man Messi, whose dribbling skill was just amazing. Since then, I have become a great fan of him,” Raut said. “One day I saw Messi in Barcelona jersey on TV. Then I became a fan of Barcelona as well.”