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On Pitch would like to introduce an article by a father, an amateur referee on ESPN – about how Messi helped him bond with his rebellious teenage son.

Watching our children grow up is an exercise in accepting the unknown.

Specifically when your children are young, you easily know everything about them. Babies don’t know how to keep secrets! By the time they are toddlers, they cannot nurture an inner life… But gradually and quickly, children become teenagers; Teenagers often feel unfamiliar with themselves. At that time, the children whose green hair you still smelled, suddenly withdrew into their own universe, both closed and limitless.

The same goes for my two sons, 17 and 15 years old respectively. From being familiar, they became great mysteries, a challenge for me to try to understand.

My oldest son Charley also has autism, so his emotions are very erratic. Its true feelings are always obscured by a passion for books, screenwriting and trains.

Second son Sammy is easy to read. The boy was like a new and improved version of me. For many years, I could always tell exactly what he was thinking, because his thinking was so similar to mine

Most of the time we think about football.

This game practically haunted us because the first word Sammy said in the world was “ball.” I “trained” the boy to play football for more than a decade, and today, he is also one of my assistants when I work as a referee. Together, we watched hundreds of matches. Every Saturday morning, I follow the cycle of European football, watching from big matches between Liverpool and Man City, to even lesser-known confrontations like Burnley vs. Wolves.

But recently, other hobbies have crept into his ever-expanding mix of interests. At the same time, there are the desires and concerns of adolescence.

Father and son agreed that from next season, the boy will play football under the guidance of a new coach, because he needs innovation to learn in a more diverse way. So I know that soon I will have to spend Saturday mornings watching football alone.

I told myself that such separations are natural in the growing process of children, and in fact, father and child still love and bond with each other very much. Even so, it’s still heartbreaking to watch the young bird leave the nest and head towards a new horizon…

But at that moment, Lionel Messi landed in Miami! My God, that’s the greatest player in history and he’s playing right around the corner from us!

Messi mania was spreading throughout the United States at that time, and I really did everything I could to hunt for tickets. Carefully researching Inter Miami’s match schedule, to have a high probability of buying tickets, I aimed for an away trip: the trip to Los Angeles FC’s stadium on September 3 – just a nice day for my children to spend. Goodbye summer. Even so, it’s still very difficult. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in the front row of the North Stand twice, even though I had to sit with the home team’s… ultras.

“Tickets are so rare, how did you find them so well?!”, my son was surprised when I told him we were going to see Messi play. It is too difficult to explain my efforts in detail, as well as a father trying to hold a teenage boy out of his arms.

We left early to experience a few days of amazing travel in LA, and then Sunday finally arrived.

That morning, Sammy and I spent hours… being hit by strong waves while swimming in the beach in Santa Monica. Then at night, we were engulfed in another wave of excitement: a sea of people flooded the streets leading to the stadium, to watch the greatest football player play.

Messi entered the field. A giant, a superhero in a small body and an all-pink suit. And then I leaned against Sammy, pointing at Messi like the image I always dreamed of. The boy also responded to his father’s kindness with a nod and pretended to be an immature child in need of his father’s guidance.

Then the whistle sounded. 3252, the host ultras seem to be holding back. They appear to ignore the modernity of the best player this planet has ever seen. This group kept beating drums, waving flags, singing LAFC songs and of course, not forgetting to curse and insult the Miami players.

But the rest of the arena was different – including the regular LAFC crowd. They all couldn’t hide their love and surprise when they saw Messi with their own eyes. Everyone’s emotions and reactions rose and fell with every move of El Pulga, as if the tides followed the magic of the moon.

The final whistle has already sounded.

“Do you enjoy watching?”, I asked. The boy nodded and hugged me. “Good, dad too.”

We watched the players walk off the field, as the rest of the stands soon emptied as people were busy having fun. We are different. Father and son stood together, looking out onto the lawn, under the last lights of a lucky night in Los Angeles.

Finally had to move, but Sammy said: “Can we stay a little longer?”.

I looked at it in surprise. In that moment, I saw in my son both innocence and maturity. Here it is, the man who doesn’t want to leave his father’s side.


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