Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi has a trademark celebration for his goals. He points to the heavens with both hands every time he scores. We know the celebration but do we know why he does it? It is, in fact, a part of a fitting tribute to his grandmother Celia Olivera Cuccittini.
Leo Messi: My grandmother insisted: ‘let him play, let him play’… then the coach put me in and I did some good thing. My grandmother came back and told the coach: ‘Buy him football shoes and next week I will bring him here for training’ and that’s where it started. pic.twitter.com/GNoMIeSjFR
— Leo Messi 🔟 (@WeAreMessi) May 22, 2021
Celia is an instrumental figure in orchestrating the initiation of Messi’s career at Grandoli (Rosario’s local team). She died in 1998 when Messi was only 11 but she had already paved the way for Messi to become the star that he is today.
Grandmother Celia helped Lionel Messi start his soccer career
According to a story told by Messi himself in an interview with Diario Ole, when he was small, Celia had pushed the manager of a neighborhood soccer club to let him play with the bigger kids.
Messi talked about how his brothers and cousins played in their respective age categories and he was too young to fulfill any.
“I was one of the youngest ones and therefore there were no categories for me yet, but one of them was missing a player and so my grandmother told the manager ‘to let me play,’ to which the manager replied, ‘How can we let him play? He is too small, he cannot play.’”
However, Celia did not budge. She insisted on him playing.
“I scored two goals although truthfully, I do not remember much as I was quite young, but that is the story as my grandmother used to tell it,” said Messi.
Author Michael Part talked about this in his book ‘The Flea — The Amazing Story of Leo Messi.’
Celia suggested that Messi could play for Grandoli, labeled as the ‘worst team in the town’.
“It might be good for you that they are doing so poorly,” Celia said. “A lousy team needs a great player, right?”
She meant Messi when saying ‘a great player’ and the Argentine was ‘beaming’ at her response. His grandmother convinced the coach and Messi surpassed all expectations. His dribbling abilities left people shocked.
When did Lionel Messi’s grandmother pass away?
Messi’s grandmother, Celia, passed away in 1998. It was his grandmother who encouraged him to play and took him to matches. She played a huge role in beginning one of the greatest careers in soccer.
Upon scoring with a strong left-footed finish in one of his early games, Part wrote: “He (Messi) could not hear the cheering [after he scored the goal]. All he could hear was his grandma shouting his name.”
“He looked over to the stands and when he saw her, he smiled. Then he raised his two fingers in the air as if to say, ‘That was for you, Grandma.’”
Since Celia’s death, Messi has been pointing to the heavens to dedicate his success to his grandmother.