Lionel Messi, regarded as one of the best players of his generation, is set to miss the Singapore-Argentina friendly match (June 13) despite being promoted as one of the star attractions of the match, which is being organised to mark the 125th anniversary of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Messi, who is currently in Melbourne preparing for Argentina’s friendly clash with Brazil on Friday night, but reports surfaced on Thursday from a number of Spanish news outlets that the superstar will be released from the squad to return to Barcelona following the Brazil match to finalise preparations for his wedding, which is apparently scheduled for the end of this month.
The news was confirmed by new Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli during a media conference in Melbourne on Thursday morning, where Argentina are currently in for their friendly against Brazil on Friday.
Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi could be in a similar position, also set to miss the clash in Singapore due to his own June wedding.
“Otamendi and Messi are allowed to travel after the game, because they are getting married. So it was already planned that they will leave after the game with Brazil,” Sampaoli was reported as saying.
Singaporean football fans, especially those who bought tickets just to watch Messi in action, were left feeling damn dulan by the news.
According to TODAY, one of the fans, accounts manager Muhammad Hamzah, said: “I bought tickets to the match because I thought Messi was coming. Given that they aren’t cheap, of course I’m unhappy to know that he might not come down now.
“I wish the organisers or the Argentinian FA had announced this earlier, especially as he’s (Messi) been promoted heavily as one of the star attractions for this fixture.”
Marketing executive Alvin Tan, who spent S$276 on two Category 2 tickets, said: “Obviously it’s a huge disappointment. If I knew this earlier, I would probably have bought cheaper tickets.”
And even though the Argentina team travelling to Singapore will still feature other stars such as Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria, that did not give Tan much consolation.
“The other players in the Argentina team are world class as well, but they’re no Messi,” he said.
Other fans were unhappy that news of Messi’s absence was revealed less than a week before the match.
Said student Rahul Warrier: “Considering the game was marketed as Messi and stars coming to Singapore, the main attraction was obvious … the blame lies at the organisers, because certainly they must have known something about Messi’s absence.
“Sampaoli said as much in his press conference that Messi’s absence was planned. The question is whether this was intimated to the organisers and or the FAS, who will now naturally be painted as the villains. Of course, it could also be a case of the Argentina FA not informing the organisers of Messi’s choice (to skip this game).”
Tickets to the Singapore vs Argentina match are priced at S$40, S$78, S$138, S$188.
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