Outside the US, Lionel Messi is arguably the most well-known athlete in the world. He is also “one of the most marketable in the business.” Messi is a 26-year-old Argentine footballer (US translation: soccer player) who plays for Futbol Club Barcelona in the Spanish professional league. In 2000, 13-year-old Messi joined Barcelona, and three years later, he made his debut with the major league club. Now, he earns over $20 million a year on the field and another $21 million off the field. He has contracts with Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, EA Sports and many others. Just this month, Messi was ranked 10th on Forbes’ list of top paid athletes.
Last week, Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge, appeared in a Spanish court to answer accusations of defrauding Spanish authorities of more than $5 million through the use of companies abroad — Belize and Uruguay– to sell the rights to Messi’s image. They deny the allegations. After the allegations become known, Messi posted this on his Facebook page: “We have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations.”
Why is this big deal? Messi came from a modest background, the son of factory steel worker and a part-time cleaner. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, which his parents could not afford to treat. With the help of some relatives, Messi was given a trial with FC Barcelona and because of his exceptional talent was given a contract that included payment to treat his medical condition. Since his rise to fame, he has created a foundation to aid at-risk children and teenagers and he has been named as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In the world of international soccer, Lionel Messi “has long been seen as a more humble figure than most top-class footballers”. These accusations could be a blow to the soft-spoken Messi’s clean image.
Reading this story caused me to consider how I respond when I am accused of doing something wrong. Is my first response defensive or is my first response to be prayerful as Jesus told us to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:39)? Have you ever been falsely accused? What has been your response?
If the accusations against Messi are true, it caused me to consider the warning that Jesus gave his disciples, “Be on your guard…There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:1-3). Are there any sins in your life that you hope will stay hidden? Will you stand tall and confident as your deeds are proclaimed or confess and take steps to right the wrong now?
Everything that you do and say has eternal effect. Will God be able to say “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) about you?