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SPORTS | 16-06-2023 09:28

Indonesia fans vexed after Messi pulls out of friendly

Indonesian fans devastated after star pulled out of a friendly in Jakarta.

Indonesian fans of Lionel Messi expressed dismay Friday after the star pulled out of a friendly in Jakarta, including one making a 12-hour boat and plane journey to the game who accused organisers of false advertising.

People have rushed to snap up more than 60,000 tickets for the sell-out Monday clash between Indonesia and World Cup winners Argentina after Messi's face was plastered across advertising for the event.

But following days of speculation, fans in the football-mad country received bad news on Thursday that their hero would not play.

"I'm feeling sad and disappointed, mixed emotions," 31-year-old shop owner Surya Wijaya Ang told AFP from the remote island of Banda Neira in the eastern province of Maluku."This was the biggest chance for me to see Messi play in person."

On Thursday the Albiceleste beat Australia in another friendly in the Chinese capital Beijing, with head coach Lionel Scaloni confirming that Messi would not make the Indonesian leg of their Asian tour.

Having become a major fan of Messi during the star's time at Barcelona, Ang has amassed a collection of around 200 shirts adorned with his name. He is planning to take a boat to the eastern Indonesian city of Ambon before catching a four-hour flight to Jakarta to attend the match.

Ang sold seven shirts from his wider jersey collection to pay for the 1.2 million rupiah (US$80) match ticket, a steep price in the lower-middle-income country.

 

'Marketing strategy'

The Messi fanatic is aggrieved and said organisers had seemingly promised an appearance by the superstar.

"Messi is an icon and you can say that 90 percent of the tickets were sold because of Messi," he said. "This was a marketing strategy for them."

Other Indonesians took to social media to convey disappointment, with one offering to sell two tickets "because Messi is not coming." 

A video posted on Twitter showed a fan singing a guitar ballad with the lyrics: "Why don't you come to Indonesia? Why you don't come, oh Mr Messi?"

Another wrote: "This is the end of my idolising him... we won't beg him to come."

Indonesian football has been enduring a year of crises with a deadly stadium crush and losing the rights to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

Despite having his Messi hopes dashed, Ang said he would travel to the capital for the game anyway.

"I've come this far, so I will still be going," he said.

"Maybe I will see Lionel Scaloni," he added, laughing.

 

Fan arrested

Chinese police detained a young football fan and barred him from stadiums for a year after he invaded the pitch and embraced Lionel Messi during an Argentina-Australia friendly in Beijing, authorities said Friday.

The man ran onto the pitch at the Worker's Stadium midway through the match's second half on Thursday night and scored a hug from his idol before being chased down by guards. The crowd roared and clapped at the man's antics, but police were not amused.

"The Chaoyang District public security bureau has already imposed administrative detention on him in accordance with the law," police said in a statement on Friday, identifying the 18-year-old by his surname Di.

Police ordered Di not to attend matches at stadiums for the next twelve months.

"Di also expressed remorse for his actions and accepted the punishment from the public security organ," the statement added, without specifying how long Di had been detained or whether he had been released.

Messi is idolised in football-mad China, where the underperforming national team and struggling domestic league are chronic sources of disappointment.

More than 50,000 people in Beijing braved the searing heat on Thursday to watch Messi lead his team to victory over the Socceroos.

Hundreds of fans had massed outside the team's luxury hotel earlier in the week and lined heavily guarded streets in the hopes of catching a glimpse of their hero.

One fan told AFP he had hidden inside the janitor's closet at the team's team's hotel hoping to get close to Messi. He was caught and questioned by hotel security before being released.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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