Lionel Messi said Sunday that he hoped Argentina’s Copa America triumph would help provide strength to his compatriots in their battle to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
The message, posted on social media, came less than a day after the Albiceleste beat Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, ending Argentina’s 28-year wait for a major trophy.
“It was an incredible Copa America. We know that we can still improve a lot of things, but the truth is that the guys gave it everything and I can’t be more proud to have the luck of being captain of this spectacular group,” Messi said in the post.
“I want to dedicate this success to my family, who always gave me the strength to move forward, to my friends that I love so much, to all the people who believe in us and most of all to the 45 million Argentines who have endured such a tough time with this virus …, especially those that have been personally affected.”
According to Argentine health ministry figures, the country has had more than four million positive cases of the virus, over 98,000 of which have been fatal.
Messi, who was awarded player of the tournament for his four goals and five assists, also dedicated the victory to the memory of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, who died last year aged 60.
“This is for all [Argentines], and of course also for Diego, who surely was supporting us from wherever he is,” said the 34-year-old, before urging Argentines to continue following health protocols to limit the spread of the virus.
“In order to continue celebrating we have to continue taking care of ourselves. Let’s not forget that there is still a long way to go to return to normality and I hope we can take advantage of this happiness to gain a little strength to fight the virus together.”
Earlier on Sunday, Brazil star Neymar posted a message on social media in which he lauded his former Barcelona teammate and close friend.
“Losing hurts me. It’s something that I still haven’t learned to live with,” the Paris Saint-Germain attacker said.
“Yesterday when we lost, I went to give a hug to the biggest and best player that I have seen: my friend and brother [Lionel Messi]. I was sad and I told him, “Man, you beat me.”
“I am very sad at having lost. But this guy is awesome! I have great respect for what he has done for football and especially for me. I hate to lose. But enjoy your title, football has been waiting for you for this moment.”