Soccer fans definitely do not want to miss the quadrennial sport fiesta when the world best players, including Lionel Messi, are expected to the join the men's Olympic football tournament in Beijing.
When many young footballers are still seeking their professional careers, Argentine player Messi, who just turned his 21 last month, has already showcased his quality of a world star.
"I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi," Argentina's legendary footballer, the 1986 World Cup-winning skipper, Diego Maradona, said earlier.
Messi started playing football under his father's coach and joined a local club named Newell's Old Boys when he was only 7. However, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency at the age of 11 and his family decided to move to Spain for medical treatment, where he signed Barcelona as a young player.
He then made spectacular progress at every age level, climbing through ranks from the Barcelona C to the first team. In 2004, he made his official debut for FC Barcelona against Espanyol, making him the youngest player to play for the club at that time.
In 2005, Messi made his first international debut to represent Argentina against Hungary. However, it lasted for less than a minute, as he responded to a challenge with a swing elbow.
But soon he became the then-youngest-scorer for FC Barcelona club in a La Liga game, or Spanish Premier Football league, against Albacete on May 1.
That June, Messi led the Argentina to win the U-20 World Cup and also clinched both Golden Ball and Golden Boot titles. In 2007, he won the second place of the FIFA World Player of the year, when he was only 20.
The young man, tagged as "new Maradona", now looks forward to representing his country to defend the Olympic title.
"The Olympic Games are something I will never be able to play in again and I am very excited at the prospect," Messi said earlier.
The Beijing Olympics only allow footballers under the age of 23, except for three over-age players for each side. However, the decision is yet to be made for next Games. "There is no doubt that I will be there. I have really high hopes with the Olympic squad," he said earlier, although Barcelona wanted him to play for the Champions League preliminary.
The Olympic tournament starts on August 6 with the final on August 23, which overlapped the Champions League preliminary that initiates from August 12.
(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2008)