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Baghdad Messi: The Unbeatable Spirit

by Helmy Sa'at

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Which team, and country by extension, will be hoisting the World Cup trophy weighing more than 6 kilograms (5 kg of it is solid 18-carat gold!) on Dec 18, 2022? With 32 teams competing, there are many reasons one would be watching the global tournament, which has been expected to draw a total viewership of 5 billion!

One of the star attractions that have captured the world’s attention is the Argentinian football giant – Lionel Messi. With reports that it would be his final World Cup, all eyes are on the global superstar who has managed to spark a worldwide obsession for his career and the sport for over a decade now.

Chasing Football Dreams

A still from Baghdad Messi, which is available to stream on Qalbox.

For Hamoudi, in Baghdad Messi, football is not just any other pastime. His daily lived reality of having to live in a country drowning in violent domestic strife is a strong impetus to latch on football as a form of distraction.

And, his love for his football hero, Messi. It serves as a mental and emotional escape from the cruel realities of his immediate present and bleak future. He does so by developing a connection to the outside world by playing football with his friends and watching football matches on the television, together.

Unbeatable Spirit Of Messi

Although Hamoudi has only one leg, his disability has never been a liability. At least, it has never been articulated out loud by him or his family. He was berated by his friend, Yakoub, for being the cause of their team’s three-straight losses in their village football matches, thus he was made to return his gloves as the goalkeeper and expelled from the team altogether. Still, Hamoudi believed in the power of football and Messi to win back his friends.

Alas, watching a football tournament that millions in the world take for granted has become a matter of life and death for Hamoudi, his family and community. Hamoudi and his father made their way from their relatively peaceful village in the outskirts of Baghdad to the city centre with their faulty television set in tow. They managed to get their television set repaired after witnessing continued destruction and chaos of their immediate environment. At one point, they even came across a corpse in the streets! Not a typical sight for any young boy the world over.

A still from Baghdad Messi, which is available to stream on Qalbox.

On their way home, the father and son duo was caught in a crossfire. Hamoudi’s father was hit. Hamoudi’s sudden yet understandable outburst in the streets of Baghdad with spatters of his father’s blood on his cheeks was heart-wrenching:

“Do you think the television is more important than you?!”

Has his world truly changed forever? Would the years of watching Messi’s unbeatable spirit on the field rub off on Hamoudi in any way, shape or form? What is the fate of his family from that very moment?

Baghdad Messi is one of those short films you would have to watch more than just once in order to fully unpack the multiplicity of themes beautifully weaved into a cohesive yet gloomy narrative. It is a nuanced depiction of a microcosm of life (a thinly sliced depictions of life) against the backdrop of a larger and complex macro setting, whereby the domestic culture and traditions, geopolitics and life intersect to shape and produce unique experiences.

A still from Baghdad Messi, which is available to stream on Qalbox.

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