The defeat to Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario on Sunday may not be the reason for Lionel Messi's retirement from international football, after all. With teammates Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria, Ever Banega and Javier Mascherano also quitting the national team, Messi's retirement suddenly takes a completely new angle. It now appears like the Argentine superstar and his teammates have finally vented out their frustration at the chaotic functioning of the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
Sergio Aguero certainly seemed to suggest so, when he spoke of the controversy that has been brewing behind the scenes for Argentina, with his statement that multiple players are on the verge of quitting the national team as reported by Goal.com.
"There are several players who are evaluating not continuing with the national team," Aguero said. "This is the worst locker room I've ever been in, worse than the final in the World Cup in Brazil and the other Copa America," said the Manchester City forward.
Initially, Messi's heartbroken reaction to the Copa America final loss suggested that this was a personal decision that may have been taken in the heat of the moment. "The national team is over for me. That's four finals (lost), it's not for me," Messi told reporters after losing his third final in as many years. "It's a made decision, I think."
Further comments by Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero also suggested the initial theory that this may have been an emotional Messi, ready to quit football after his fourth final loss in a major international tournament. "I think he spoke while he was heated, because a beautiful opportunity escaped us," Romero said, as reported by BBC. "I can't imagine a national team without Messi. I think he'll reflect (on the decision)."
The Barcelona forward, however, expressed remorse over the penalty miss and seemed to have taken this blow particularly hard. A man like Messi, so used to winning trophies, would find it hard to deal with so many failures at the international stage, especially at that last crucial last step to glory. "In the locker room, I thought that the national team was finished for me, that it's not for me," the New York Times reported Messi as saying. "It's what I feel right now. It's a great sadness that it happened to me, that I missed penalty kick that was very important. It’s for the good of everybody. It's not enough to just get to the final and not win."
Messi's comments, along with the retirement of other national players, has been blamed on the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Fifa has put the crisis-torn Argentine FA under the administration of a committee to put its house in order and prepare it for presidential elections, world soccer's governing body announced on Friday.
The AFA, run as a personal fiefdom by the late Julio Grondona for 35 years until his death in 2014, has since been immersed in a financial and governance crisis. "This committee will administer the AFA's daily activities, check its statutes to adapt them to the latest version of Fifa's Model Statutes and organise elections by 30 June, 2017 at the latest," Fifa said in a statement on its website.
Messi had himself voiced his displeasure at AFA's treatment of Argentine players in an Instagram post on Thursday.
The post led to an AFA statement that said, "The Argentine Football Federation informs that the flight which is transporting the national team to New Jersey suffered a delayed departure due to weather issues. Also, the AFA advises that all of the scheduled times of the transfers are designated by the organisers of the Copa America Centenario."
The fall-out of this controversy, coupled with yet another Copa America loss, has been immense for the South American nation. According to ESPN Argentina, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano are likely to quit La Albiceleste, with players like Gonzalo Higuain, Lucas Biglia and Ezequiel Lavezzi also expected to join them in the next few days. Clearly, the AFA's controversial reign along with their second Copa America loss in two years has led to a complete meltdown of Argentine football. It's obvious that a clean-up of the administrative affairs of the football association might be the first step towards regaining the trust of their players and, eventually and hopefully, welcoming the likes of Messi, Aguero and Mascherano back to the national team fold.
The AFA has no choice but to comply with Fifa regulations. With the 2018 World Cup looming in the not-too-distant future, a successful attempt at going one better than their last attempt in Rio solely depends on their best national players returning to the team and returning quickly. A long drawn out affair will only affect Argentina's World Cup hopes and thus a quick resolution to AFA's administrative problem seems the best way to fix this national crisis.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jun 27, 2016 14:40:43 IST