Why Can’t He Just Take the Loss and Move On?

The emotional chasm between winning and losing is vast. Winning brings elation, while losing brings disappointment and sorrow. However, it is traditional, and considered good manners, that both be embraced with class. This means that you don’t rub success in the opponent’s face and you do not complain about losing, instead accepting that you were beaten by a superior foe. So when people blame their losses on uncorroborated allegations of corruption, they are considered sore losers. Or Lionel Messi after the 2019 Copa America.

I have written many times about Lionel Messi’s inability to win a major title with Argentina, especially surprising given his overwhelming success with FC Barcelona. However, his lack of success is understandable, mainly because he doesn’t have the same freedom with the Albiceleste as he does with Barça. In Spain, Messi’s familiarity with his teammates and coaches allows him to roam around the pitch and play on the left or the right or up the middle, whereas his central attacking midfield role with Argentina is much more rigidly defined and doesn’t allow for the creativity he’s known for.

Messi revealed himself to be a sore loser over the weekend, however, when he refused to accept his third place medal at the Copa America. He compounded this lack of grace by alleging that the referees had been biased against Argentina and in favor of hosts Brazil, and accused CONMEBOL (South America’s soccer federation) of corruption.

Let’s take a step back and examine what this allegation means. Lionel Messi, one of the world’s best footballers, is suggesting that the game was rigged against him. It’s interesting that someone of his stature would levy that accusation against anyone, let alone his country’s governing federation. Now, soccer is no stranger to corruption (ask Sepp Blatter), but Messi’s allegations have been met with much criticism, particularly from Brazil’s head coach Tite and former teammate and Brazil captain Dani Alves, who both said that Messi needed to “lose with grace.” Additionally, CONMEBOL announced that it could suspend Messi for up to two years of international competition for his comments.

At this point, Messi’s allegations simply come off as those issued by a spoiled child who’s upset that he can’t succeed with his national team and uses excuses to cover that up. But the fact is that he didn’t have a good tournament. The team throughout appeared disjointed (again), and Messi was unable to work his magic and inspire his teammates, resulting in an embarrassing loss to Colombia and a nerve-wracking tie against a supposedly inferior Paraguay before ultimately losing the semifinal against eventual winners Brazil.

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