Rio de Janeiro: Argentina captain Lionel Messi has dedicated the team’s Copa America victory to “45 million Argentines” and legendary late football player Diego Maradona and hoped emotional triumph would help provide strength to his compatriots in their battle to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
Messi won the first international title of his career when his team beat Brazil 1-0 in the final of the Copa America at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, ending Argentina’s 28-year wait for a major trophy.
“It was an incredible Copa America. We know that we can still improve a lot of things, but the truth is that the guys gave it everything and I can’t be more proud to have the luck of being captain of this spectacular group,” said Messi in an Instagram post on Sunday.
“I want to dedicate this success to my family, who always gave me the strength to move forward, to my friends that I love so much, to all the people who believe in us, and most of all to the 45 million Argentines who have endured such a tough time with this virus… especially those that have been personally affected,” he said.
Argentina is among the worst affected countries in South America by Covid-19.
According to Argentine health ministry figures, the country has had more than four million positive cases of the virus, over 98,000 of which have been fatal.
Messi, who was awarded player of the tournament for his four goals and five assists, also dedicated the victory to the memory of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, who died last year aged 60.
“This is for all, and of course also for Diego, who surely was supporting us from wherever he is. In order to continue celebrating we have to continue taking care of ourselves. Let’s not forget that there is still a long way to go to return to normality and I hope we can take advantage of this happiness to gain a little strength to fight the virus together. Thank you God for everything you gave me and thank you for having made an Argentine,” said Messi.
The Barcelona striker has won the FIFA World Player of the Year a record six times and is widely considered one of the greatest players ever to play the game, alongside Pele, Maradona and his rival Cristiano Ronaldo.