LNTUP

Juan Riquelme: The Lazy Mozart of Pampas

Photo: Tusar
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If we have to travel from point A to point B, everyone would take the six-lane highway and get there as quickly as possible. Everyone, except Riquelme. He would choose the winding mountain road, that takes six hours, but that fills your eyes with scenes of beautiful landscapes of Andes”, Jorge Valdano smiled gently.

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On a scorching summer noon after finishing my lunch, being a football fanatic Bengali boy, I threw my lazy body on bed & settled myself, resting my eyes on YouTube scavenging through the videos of Juan Román Riquelme. It paints a quite simple & lazy picture on the readers’ minds. However, there is an odd sense of peace & beauty that this laziness manifests – a sense that can well be associated with classicism in football.

Being an ardent La Albiceleste fan, Juan Riquelme for me, is one of the most prolific Argentine who would bring the similar flavour of laziness, peace and beauty. When Riquelme’s feet kissed the ball, one could simply forgot to check the match clock gently ticking away.

I never felt he actually ever kicked a ball. When his feet caressed the ball towards his fellow teammate, it was more like a gentle stroke leaving the painter’s brush, slowly fading away as well as leaving a long lasting impression, just like the “Defense Hypnotizing” cardinal pass against San Lorenzo de Almagro in 2000. Or, in another scenario, beauty lingers a little more when he sent the ball to kiss the far corner of net, compelling the hopeless goalkeeper to watch it fly by or tease him to make a futile dive to save the ball, only for the ball to mock past him. That’s the Riquelme I was acquainted with in my very childhood.

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For me, Riquelme is the guy who made Football talk. He actually taught the naïve, young football enthusiasts that football doesn’t necessarily mean speed. He symbolized the essence of football for the Latin Americans – a sheer epitome of raw art.

If Twitter or Facebook or any other social media were available in 2000, when he did that reverse nutmeg on Mario Yepes in the quarter-finals of the 2000 Copa Libertadores against River Plate, I can bet all those platforms would explode after the match. It is such a trick that even after one-and-a-half decade later it still ignites a hot debate topic on “One of the greatest trick ever” among the roadside pub guys of Buenos Aires.

Riquelme is the guy who made me fall in love with Argentine football madly. After being baptized with football in 2002, Riquelme incarnated to me as Santa would, in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Riquelme, with the ball at feet, was a casual strolling in the park. Flowers bloomed whenever he stepped his feet on the pitch. Along with admiring his artistic manifestations, Riquelme later gifted so many sleepless nights of both joy and sorrow to come, claing with my hearts out, gasping in utter disbelief, crying in pain, changing the entire course of the day within the span of those 90 minutes was something that I badly miss since he hung his playing boots.

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After saying goodbye to the beautiful game, he calls himself a “fan” now who will visit the stadium & suffer. Meanwhile, it hurts pretty much to accept the fact that maybe I will not perceive anyone like him ever again, someone who can’t help but smile at the prospect of being on the same boat as him, as a proud fan of you, Juan Román Riquelme, thank you for all your memories.

Thank you for taking me on a ride with you, so what if it also had that penalty miss against Arsenal in 2006 which shattered your dream of being in the Champions League final? Or you were just beyond any covetous dream as you did comment with sublime nonchalance – “I didn’t kill anyone. All I did was miss a penalty”.

Thank you for being there, standing tall, and re-writing the significance of “class” for me. ……..Gracias!