Lula lauds Messi: ‘He should be an inspiration for our youngsters’

The Brazilian president called for young athletes to learn from the Argentine during his personal TV show

Brazilian president Lula da Silva said Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi should be an inspiration for young Brazilian athletes, lamenting that the country hasn’t developed a “true sports hero” in many years, and that’s the reason behind its World Cup-woes since the 2002 tournament.

“Messi should be an inspiration for Brazilians,” said Lula during his personal show “Conversation with the President”, which is streamed live online. “Having won the World Cup at 36, playing in the United States and winning the Ballon d’Or, he must be an example for those kids who look like future stars at 17 and then disappear after being sold abroad.”

“It’s been a long time since Brazil developed true sports heros like the squads from 1970 or 2002,” added Lula, referencing two of the greatest Verdeamarelha World Cup victories and regretting Brazil’s win drought. Brazil will have gone 24 years without winning the tournament by the time the next World Cup is played in 2026.

“Messi has to inspire our youngsters. Elite-level football and partying every night don’t mix. It’s absurd to watch Messi scoring goals in the US at his age or Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, scoring more goals by themselves than all of Corinthians,” said the Brazilian president.

Lula, part of Brazil’s Workers Party, failed to mention his countryman Neymar, who at one point contested the Ballon d’Or against Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but now plays in Saudi Arabia after a mixed stint at French club Paris Saint Germain. Neymar openly supported sitting president Jair Bolsonaro during the 2022 presidential elections.

Brazil is the only country to win the World Cup five times, but it endured a 24-year barren spell between 1970 and 1994. This means if the Verdeamarelha fails to win the 2026 tournament, it’ll be the longest title drought in its history.

“We need to improve a lot,” said Lula, who also took the opportunity to laud his government’s sports policy, which provides financial and logistical backing to Olympic athletes.

— with information from Télam


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