Amidst a crazy atmosphere in Argentina, national hero Lionel Messi and his companions are playing a festive friendly match Thursday in the capital, Buenos Aires, for the first time as world champions after they were crowned World Cup Qatar at the end of last year with the third world star.
More than 1.5 million fans applied for the 63,000 available tickets for the match against Panama at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires.
Football-mad Argentines came out in even greater numbers after Albiceleste’s dramatic penalty shootout victory over France in the final at Lusail Stadium in Doha last December. An estimated five million people thronged the streets of the capital a few days later, for the ceremonial parade of passing players on an open bus.
However, due to the huge crowds, the bus was unable to complete its journey to the center of the capital, forcing the organizers to cancel the show.
Many expected Messi to retire from international football after the final in which he scored two goals and a penalty in a penalty shootout, but the Paris Saint-Germain striker said he wanted to stick around a bit longer so he could play for his country as world champions.
Those expectations were shaken slightly earlier this month when two men opened fire on a food store owned by Messi’s wife’s family, with a threatening message directed at the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.
14 bullets were fired at the metal facade of a closed supermarket, and a cardboard sign on which was hand written: “Messi we are waiting for you, Jafkin is a drug dealer, he will not take care of you,” referring to Pablo Jafkin, mayor of Rosario, Messi’s hometown (320 km northwest of Buenos Aires). ).
But Messi was calm about this incident, as his father, Jorge, pointed out, “I spoke to the young man and he told me not to worry.”
Messi arrived with his wife Antonella and their three children in Buenos Aires on Monday, a day after Saint-Germain, the leader, lost to his guest Rennes 0-2 in “League 1”, and it was the first in the French League competitions at home since the Argentine arrived in the capital in the summer of 2021.
And while he faced boos at the Parc des Princes from his club’s fans, he was greeted as a national hero in his country.
With 20,000 seats allocated in the 83,000-capacity stadium, the remaining tickets sold out within two hours after they went on sale.
The cheapest ticket cost 12,000 pesos ($60) to 49,000 pesos ($245), which is more than half the average monthly salary in the country.
The Argentine Football Federation said that it had received more than 130,000 media accreditation requests, while the journalists’ platform could only accommodate 344 journalists.