Tuesday 17 November 2020, 08:27

Da Fonseca: Messi represents everything children dream of becoming

  • Omar Da Fonseca was a professional player between 1979 and 1993

  • Now working as a pundit on French TV

  • A big fan of his compatriots Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi

Omar Da Fonseca has always loved football. From his childhood in Buenos Aires to his professional playing days and his current job as a pundit on French TV, his passion for the game has shone through. Quite simply, he lives and breathes it.

When he chatted to us about the South American qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, the Argentinian could not resist waxing lyrical, telling anecdotes and stories aplenty about the sport closest to his heart.

Now 62, Da Fonseca is one of France’s most loved football pundits. For the last 25 years, he has brought La Liga and South American football vividly to life for fans across the country, so much so that if he sees something remarkable on the field of play, he thinks nothing of yelling out loud or breaking into song or laughter. When he is at the microphone, anything can happen.

“Some pundits play it safe because they’ve got ambitions for the future,” Da Fonseca, who currently works for beIN SPORTS, told FIFA.com. “Me, I just try to have an identity, to have fun. I’ve got all these cards on which I’ve written sentences, proverbs, oxymorons, and figures of speech. There are also things that just come out of the blue, when the adrenaline is pumping and emotions are running high. I try to be in tune with what I see.”

Admiration for two of the best

No player excites Da Fonseca more than his fellow countryman Lionel Messi, whom he admires greatly. “He represents everything that children dream of becoming, especially in Argentina,” he said. “He’s the first player for whom it’s not all about the result.”

In Da Fonseca’s eyes, the Best FIFA Men’s Player 2019 is a phenomenon that defies description. “Statistics are all the rage these days: the number of kilometres, the number of duels won. He doesn’t always run, though, and when he’s not running he’s thinking. To my mind, it’s better to think than to run around.”

Earlier in his life, there was another Argentinian player Da Fonseca admired: Diego Maradona. He rubbed shoulders with the great No. 10 during his brief international career, which began when Cesar Luis Menotti called him up in the late 1970s.

“There was Maradona and the likes of [Gabriel] Calderon and Ramon Diaz. The first time I saw Diego it was crazy. We knew him as the ‘untouchable guy’. That was the paradoxical thing about Maradona, because he was also a kid from the streets. He was resourceful and had every trick in the book but there was something endearing about him too when he cried.” Da Fonseca’s love for the legendary Argentinian playmaker has stayed true ever since.

In 1984, Maradona signed for Napoli. Two years later, Da Fonseca joined Monaco. “Luckily, we often played on Saturdays in France,” said the TV pundit. “Whenever he was in the north of Italy, I’d get in my car on a Sunday and go and see him play; it didn’t matter that we’d been called up together or that we played against each other too. It just goes to show how much he blew everyone away, how much he excited us.”

Omar Da Fonseca with fans

Three to watch out for

Da Fonseca is also getting excited at the prospect of Matchday 4 of the South American qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. In his eyes there are three teams that stand apart:

“Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are stronger than the others because of the players they have. Then there’s Colombia, with [Duvan] Zapata and [Luis] Muriel, two hungry players who combine well and work well. [James] Rodriguez is in form too and [Juan] Cuadrado is still producing. After them, you’ve got Chile, who are starting to age a little, and then Peru and Paraguay. Look out for Ecuador too. They’ve made a really good start.”

He also believes there might be a surprise or two in store, especially in these days of empty stadiums: “South American fans really get behind their teams and cheer them on. They push the players on and create a hostile atmosphere. So things obviously change when there are no fans in the stadium. I don’t see everything being turned on its head though.”

Did you know?

  • Omar Da Fonseca spent his entire playing career in two leagues: Argentina’s Primera Division with Club Atletico Belgrano and Velez Sarsfield; and France’s Ligue 1 with Tours, Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Toulouse and Paris FC.

  • He won the French title twice: first with PSG in 1986 and then with Monaco in 1988.

  • He went one to become a players’ agent and then head of recruitment at Saint-Etienne between 2005 and 2008. He also completed his first coaching badge, “but it didn’t inspire or motivate me - I didn’t see it as a way for me to flourish”.

  • In September this year, he published his autobiography Gracias a la Vida ('Thank You, Life'), in which he talks about his good fortune in having the career he has had and leading a privileged life.

beIN SPORTS broadcasts CONMEBOL qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Australia, New Zealand, France, the Middle East and North Africa.