Lionel Messi is one of the premier athletes in professional soccer on a global scale. The soccer superstar has been playing professionally since he was just a teenager.
His list of accomplishments puts him up with some of the greatest to ever play the game. It might come to a surprise, then, to find out that his soccer career was almost over before it even began.
Lionel Messi’s diagnosis
Lionel Messi is the son of a factory worker and a cleaner. Growing up in Argentina, Messi began playing soccer since he was just a little boy. His talent was noticeable from a very early age, and it was clear that Soccer was the right path for him when he was still just a child. However, when Messi was just 11 years old, his soccer dreams took a hit.
Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD), and as a result, his growth was stunted. Without proper treatment, Messi was unlikely to be able to pursue his dreams, and while a local club called River Plate was interested in signing him, they were not willing to pay for his medical treatments.
What is GHD?
Growth Hormone Deficiency, according to RareDiseases.org, is an extremely rare disorder that stems from inadequate secretion of growth hormone from the anterior pituitary gland. As a result, those who have it may not only grow at a slower rate of others their age, but the entire maturation process can be delayed.
Children who have GHD are usually born at normal size, and the condition may not be immediately noticeable until the years where they grow a lot. This is how Lionel Messi went 11 years without a diagnosis. The disease can have some more advanced effects, but most cases can be treated with human growth hormone. This is what Messi required when he found out.
Barcelona give Lionel Messi a chance
Happily, Lionel Messi was eventually given an opportunity to not only pursue his soccer career but get the medical treatment that he needed. HGH may have certain unfortunate connotations in sports, but at that age, it was a legitimate medical need. Barcelona decided to give him a trial run, then coach Carles Rexach offered Messi a contract that was written on a napkin. It included having his treatment paid for.
There in Barcelona, with all the treatment that he needed and doing the thing he loved to do most, Messi took his playing career seriously. He was, after all, in one of the most storied youth programs in the world. With the second chance, he didn’t want anything to take him away from his dreams of making it as a professional.
“I made a lot of sacrifices by leaving Argentina, leaving my family to start a new life,” Messi said according to Biography Online. “But everything I did, I did for football, to achieve my dream. That’s why I didn’t go out partying, or do a lot of other things.”
The rest is history
Not much needs to be said about Lionel Messi’s career once he was given the proper treatment. He became one of the biggest names in the world at a very young age, with his ability to score goals from all over the field proving stifling to the other team’s defenders. He’s accumulated countless accolades and awards. Messi continues to impress to this very day.
Messi is a testament not only to what it means to overcome a hurdle on the way to someone’s dream, but a reminder that if given the proper chance, stars can come from the most unlikely of places. If Barcelona hadn’t given Messi a chance, we may have never seen the soccer superstar in front of us today.