ROSARIO, Argentina — It’s match day at Abanderado Grandoli, a small, working-class soccer club here in Argentina’s third-largest city. Local families pay $1 a month so their 4-year-old sons can play seven-a-side fútbol — a first step, many hope, toward a professional career in the national obsession.
In the small locker room hangs a poster of a child who passed through the club three decades ago — inspiration for small boys with big dreams. His name is Lionel Messi.
“Watching Messi play at that age was, simply put, unforgettable,” said club president David Treves, now 45. “How could you forget? He was a tiny, introverted 4-year-old doing back then what the world saw decades later.” The goalkeeper would hand Messi the ball, he said, and the child would dribble through the opposing team until he scored.