Argentine footballing superstar Lionel Messi has criticised prevailing global social inequalities in a rare political interview with leftist magazine La Garganta Poderosa.
"Inequality is one of our society’s biggest problems and we must fight to correct that as soon as possible," the 33-year-old Barcelona star told the magazine, which is a community-led advocate for those living in Argentina’s villas.
"All the fundamental services must be preserved for those who need them most in situations like this pandemic – water, electricity and even basic foods," said Messi.
The coronavirus pandemic has aggravated Argentina’s poverty problem, which affected 40.9 percent of the urban population in the first half of the year, according to government data.
The magazine’s interview with the Albiceleste captain was the flagship piece of a special 100th edition of the publication, which was founded and written by slum residents. La Garganta Poderosa’s latest version comes in the wake of a good week for Messi on the sporting front, having skippered two national team victories against Ecuador (1-0) and Bolivia (2-1) as qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar kick off.
As is traditional, the magazine’s cover shows a photo of a yelling Messi with his mouth wide open, a pose evoking the title of the outspoken publication (“Powerful throat,” in English)
In a message to those working in soup kitchens, ensuring the poverty-stricken remain fed during the pandemic, Messi said: "It gives me immense pride to see how they get involved, even in such complicated times as we are living. Any cups lifted this year should be for all the people who help out in this way."
Recalling his lower-middle-class origins in a working-class neighbourhood of football-loving Rosario, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner said that "back then, I could not even imagine where my baby steps in that neighbourhood would lead me."
It’s not the first time Messi has been in La Garganta Poderosa. In 2011, he gave its first edition an interview, in which he revealed: "I love to see T-shirts or flags with Che Guevara, Diego [Maradona] and Argentina anywhere in the world. It gives me a beautiful feeling. Every time I see those light-blue and white colours, I always draw closer to ask [where they’re from]."
"Today I’m less obsessed with scoring goals, for example, but try to be more of a team player," he said at another point in the socially tinged interview.
Asked for his viewpoint on how to improve society, he replied: "Education is the basis of everything."
La Garganta Poderosa has also published interviews with other famous sportsmen as Diego Maradona, Sergio “Kun” Agüero, Juan Román Riquelme and Emanuel "Manu" Ginóbili, as well as a host of high-profile artistic and political figures.