Bend It Like Messi

"Wait until you see me play in these new trainers!"

“Wait until you see me play in these new trainers!”

I took my son to buy football trainers.

That’s what he wanted, like all the other boys at his school, most of them mad about football. This is Argentina, where every kid wants to be the next Lionel Messi, the wizardly amazing striker of Argentina and Barcelona.

The eight-year-old tried on a florescent yellow and black pair, but they weren’t to his liking.

So he perused the wall of shoes to see what he’d like.


As he looked, I thought of Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine, when the main character, Douglas Spaulding, convinces the storekeeper of the delights of a new pair of “magic” sneakers and how they make it possible to run like antelopes. And so he does. He speeds off into the green grasses and leaves behind his worn-out sneakers that had been slowing him down compared with the other kids in town.

My son found a black-and-red pair, put them on and dashed around the store, delighted. I bought them and he took them home in the box to keep them safe, he said.

As we drove home, he said, “I know this area. You used to bring me here to see that lady before I could talk.”

“Yes, that was, what, two years ago,” I said, remembering his twice-weekly visits to a speech therapist to help him annunciate and get his thoughts out in words, a challenge for him as mildly autistic and dyslexic. These conditions have filled his life since he was diagnosed at the age of four with hours and hours of therapy to help him speak like everybody else.

It is helping.

“Now that I can talk, I don’t need to see any more therapists,” he said.

I could see through the rearview mirror that he was beaming with pride, doubly so. He could talk and he had new shoes in a box on his lap.

He is on track and speaking better, but he still struggles with his words. This means his diet is still high in therapists for learning, reading, speaking, writing and figuring out how to self-regulate his everyday life.

I told him that he should look at his therapists as coaches, adding that even the best players, even Messi, has a coach to help them play even better.

“Yeah…” he said hesitantly before smiling broadly again and then holding his shoebox tighter.

I smiled even broader. For me, he’s made more advance than even Messi.

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