Lionel Andrés Messi – a.k.a. Leo, was born in central Argentina in June 1987 and is an Argentine professional football/soccer player, a national icon in Argentina, and among the greatest players (and goal scorers) who have graced the game. Lionel Messi is also a generous, philanthropic human being.
Throughout his impressive and award-winning career, Leo Messi has been involved in charitable efforts to support and protect vulnerable children. This remarkable commitment by Messi likely stems partly from the medical difficulties he faced as a child.
Messi’s Early Life
Messi and his family relocated to Spain when he was 13 to prepare to make his professional debut in 2004 as a player for the Barcelona club at the age of 17. Lionel Messi grew up in a tight-knit family of soccer lovers, which is likely why Leo found his passion for playing at such a young age – playing all the time with his two older brothers and his two cousins (Emanual & Maximiliano Biancucchi) – also professional players.
By four, Leo had become a member of Grandoli, the local youth club where his Dad first coached his talents. Although Messi notes that his maternal grandmother, Cecil, offered his earliest impact as a soccer player because it was she who often took him to train and each game. After each goal Lionel Messi scores, he celebrates by both looking and pointing to the sky as an honor and tribute to his grandmother, who passed when he was only 10.
The Legend of Lionel Messi
During his first three years with Barcelona, Messi developed into an integral member of the Barcelona team. During the first season he played without interruption, Messi helped the Barcelona club achieve their first treble– which is three trophies in one singular season. Messi played as a forward and the captain for Paris Saint-Germain, Ligue 1, until 2021.
During that time, as a craft playmaker and prolific scorer, he won –
- 35 Trophies – a club record
- 10 La Liga Titles
- Most goals in La Liga, with 474
- Most hat-tricks, with 36, etc.
- 4 UEFA Championship League Titles
- 7 Ballon d’Or awards and a member of the Ballon d’Or Dream Team
- 6 European Golden Shoes
He is also the captain of Argentina’s national football team. In 2022, Messi, as captain of the Argentina team, went on to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which included his second Golden Ball. His 26th appearance in this recent World Cup also broke the existing record for the most appearances in this global tournament.
Lionel Messi’s Style of Play
Many who watch Messi play often describe his talents as magician-like, with an almost innate ability to create scoring opportunities when there seemingly were none.
At 5’7”, his physique includes strong yet short legs that can generate short bursts of acceleration, while his agile and adept feet enable Messi to control the ball when dribbling at top speeds. Some who have watched his mastery of the game note that Lionel Messi is the only known player who actually runs faster with the ball than he does when he does not have the ball. His height also lowers his center of gravity, creating improved agility to evade the opposing team’s players and to change direction on a dime.
Messi is best known for his prolific ability to score goals, although his quick reactions, his field of vision, and his stealth-like passing skills make him a tremendous all-around player.
Lionel Messi Charity, Contributions & Philanthropy
As noted above, Messi came from humble beginnings and has always been proactively involved in paying his success forward. His own childhood, which included medical challenges, highlighted the need for Messi for those who have, to serve those who are less advantaged.
For nearly two decades, Messi has offered time and money to UNICEF, an international children’s organization with close ties to the city of Barcelona. In fact, Leo Messi has performed as UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador since he was appointed more than a decade ago. His first mission in the field for UNICEF happened shortly after his appointment when he brought public awareness to the challenges of Haiti’s children after a devastating earthquake.
Other charitable UNICEF campaigns target these important causes –
- HIV Prevention
- The Social Inclusion of Disabled Children
- Education, to name a few.
For Lionel Messi’s son’s first birthday in 2013, both Leo and his son Thiago partnered in a public awareness campaign to help raise awareness regarding the mortality rates of disadvantaged children and those born into poverty. In addition, in early 2021, Lionel Messi
In February 2021, Messi donated his Adidas soccer shoes to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. These were the shoes he wore when breaking the all-time scoring record (644) of the most goals that were scored by an athlete for a single club – previously held by the great Pele – the great Brazilian soccer player. These shoes, which were auctioned for charity, were sold for more than US$100,000 – with the proceeds going to help with the expenses related to research and care for children with cancer.
The Lionel Messi Charity Foundation
In addition to his UNICEF contributions, Messi also established The Leo Messi Foundation - a charitable organization that seeks to help by offering support and access in the realms of education, sports, and healthcare for children. The goal of this Messi cause is to offer the same opportunities to all children. This Messi foundation has previously awarded the following charitable efforts –
- Research Grants
- The Development of Medical Centers/Projects in Spain, his home country, Argentina, and other global locations.
- The Finance of Medical Training.
Youth Football Charitable Efforts
Lionel Messi is also heavily involved in Argentina’s youth football. In fact, Leo Messi offers financial support to the Sarmiento – the football club located in the Rosario neighborhood in which Messi was born. In 2013, Messi covered the expenses for the update to the Sarmiento Club’s facilities, including all-weather pitches. Additionally, Lionel Messi supports the management of several youth players who play for –
- Rosario Central
- Newell’s Old Boys Club
- Buenos Aires’ River Plate and Boca Juniors
Lionel Messi Charity During COVID
When COVID hit, Messi donated to fight the spread of coronavirus (which exceeded US $1 million). These funds were divided between medical facilities in the countries of Argentina and Barcelona.
In advance of the 2021 Copa América being played in Uruguay, Leo Messi donated three signed shirts to Sinovac Biotech, a biotech firm located in China. He chose this firm because the director admired Messi’s talent and intentions.
The three shirts were given in exchange for 50,000 doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. The goal of the project was to vaccinate all the football/soccer players in South America.
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Written by Lily Wordsmith
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