We’re All Human (Even Lionel Messi)

Whew! The World Cup is (finally) over. I’m a passionate Argentina fan (after the USA, of course), and so it was an exciting, yet ultimately disappointing World Cup. I’m a bit relieved – my adrenals couldn’t handle another game. Watching soccer matches is like getting sucked into Russian novels – long, deep and anguishing.

We clearly witnessed some super-human feats, yet I was reminded by how human we are in watching Lionel Messi. Arguably the current best player in the world (he has a reported $50 million contract with Barcelona), Lionel is undeniably great.

However, from an Alexander Technique perspective, his posture or ‘use’ could be improved. You can see this clearly in the moment after defeat in the top photo. This may seem unfair to pick out such a devastating  moment, but here he is off the pitch relaxing with his wife:

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He tends to collapse through the neck and back, rounding the shoulders, taking his head back and down his neck. This not only lowers his stature, but can negatively impact coordination as well. Obviously, Messi is super coordinated, but he still has good and bad days. Here he is with ‘use’ much improved:

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He looks unstressed, even happy. Perhaps it’s after he scored a goal for Barcelona.

What I noticed, as the World Cup tournament progressed, is that his head jutted increasingly forward from his body and down the back of his spine,.  I can’t imagine the pressure of playing in front of a billion people, but it was like you could see the weight of national and personal expectation bearing down on his neck and shoulders. Sadly, as the stakes increased,  his performance seemed to decline.

Messi of Argentina argues during a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Colombia in Buenos Aires

To be fair,  Messi risen in the face of other pressure moments, but this one proved too much as he sailed his final kick well over the goal in the final seconds.  I’m reminded of other great athletes, such as Michael Jordan, who seemed to expand their bodies, ‘star-fishing’ out, and performing even better in response to such pressure:

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I would never venture to give Lionel Messi advise about soccer, but I believe he could have benefitted  (and still could) from Alexander Technique lessons. And I would bet they would  help his performance on the pitch, especially in pressure situations, as well as prevent injuries in the future.

I posted something to the same effect on FB, and a colleague said Argentina’s loss was more about luck; they had their chances and if one had gone in, I wouldn’t have made the observation about Messi.

He’s right about luck, but I disagree that wouldn’t have noticed or posted. I was noting his use throughout each game, and was concerned. If Argentina had won the final game, I would have  wondered how much better could Messi have been if his head, neck and back were in better coordination.

Messi still had a great World Cup. He was fantastic by all normal measurements and I’m still a huge fan. I think he’s such a better role model than Maradona for the youth of Argentina. I just wish I could have put my hands on him and wonder what would have been the effect.

I was recently reminded that we’re all human. We all can succumb to the stressful situations in which we find ourselves . Recently I was reminded of this. Here’s how I show my use to my students:

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But here I am, caught straining through my neck and back trying to get a photo of my daughter after her camp play before she left the stage:

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I did get the photo. Wish there was a $50 million contract waiting for me after ; )