You may or may not be aware of the strange relationship between Argentinean star Lionel Messi and his native country. In a word, it’s, uh … complicated.
Messi is the greatest soccer player the world has ever seen. He has tortured defenses for his club side, FC Barcelona, and for the Argentinean national team for over a decade now. He’s won countless trophies for Barcelona, and carried Argentina to the 2014 World Cup final, as well as multiple Copa America finals.
But some Argentine fans don’t revere him. Some even dislike him. Case in point:
En Costanera DESTRUYERON LA ESTATUA DE MESSI, verdaderamente una actitud lamentable pic.twitter.com/f6vWrOmtvv
— Dr. Flagelo (@drflagelo) December 3, 2017
Vandals appear to have chopped down the statue of Messi that stands in Buenos Aires’ Costanera Sur. It was cut at the ankles. The broken-off head, torso and legs have since been removed from the site, leaving only its base, a soccer ball and two feet:
We don’t know the identity of the perpetrator(s). We don’t know their motives, either.
But this is not the first time the statue has been attacked. In January, its head, arms and chest were cut off. After a bit of bandaging, it looked like this:
It was originally unveiled in June 2016 with a ceremony at the site. It is part of the Paseo de la Gloria, or Walk of Glory, which also features a tribute to Argentine basketball legend Manu Ginobili, among other Argentine athletes.
Here’s the Messi statue at the time of the unveiling:
So what do Argentines have against Messi?
While he’s had seemingly endless team success at Barcelona, he’s never actually won a championship for his country. That’s surely a contributing factor.
Just as important, though, is the fact that he moved to Spain as a 13-year-old. He’s spent over half his life in Europe. Some fans feel he’s more Spanish than Argentine.
That’s contributed to the absurd opinion held by some that Messi “doesn’t play for the national team shirt.” That he doesn’t give his all when wearing the white and sky blue of Argentina like he does when wearing the blue and garnet of Barcelona.
Again, we don’t know whether the vandalizations are connected to citizens’ feelings toward the national team’s star. But if they are, well, it’s an interesting way to say thanks to Messi for putting Argentina on his back and carrying an entire nation to the World Cup.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.