Messi fan fever ‘traps’ Argentina team in hotel
Published: Jun 11, 2023 11:00 PM
Lionel Messi of Argentina kisses the World Cup Trophy while holding the Golden Boot award on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. Photo: VCG

Lionel Messi of Argentina kisses the World Cup Trophy while holding the Golden Boot award on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. Photo: VCG

"Messi, Messi," Chinese fans' yelled out as Argentina soccer icon Lionel Messi arrived in Beijing on Saturday. The number of fans has been so great that, according to reports, the star athlete has been "trapped" in his hotel.

Prior to the Argentina-Australian friendly match set for Thursday, a pre-match training for Team Argentina was originally scheduled to be held at the National Olympic Sports Center in Beijing on Sunday evening. 

However, training was canceled as the "outrageously passionate" fans waiting outside of the Argentina Team's hotel making it so that the team, particularly the stellar Messi, were "unable to leave the hotel," the friendly's organizers said to media. 

Including Messi and goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli, the star-studded Argentina Team staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Beijing received an overwhelmingly warm welcome from Chinese fans on Saturday. 

"I rode my bike past the hotel and I thought the incredible long queue was people waiting for kids to finish the gaokao [China's annual college entrance exam], but then I thought the tests were already done," a netizen posted on Sina Weibo. 

Some fans have even taken "desperate" means just for a slight hope to meet Messi. A Chinese Real Madrid CF fan shared his story on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, noting that before he knew where Messi was staying, he spent 10,000 yuan ($1,400) blindly booking rooms at four of Beijing's luxury hotels just to get a chance to meet his icon. 

"I can see why this guy wanted to test his luck, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be so close to Messi, who teaches a man to be a man," Li Fusong, a Messi fan told the Global Times, adding that "frankly speaking" he thinks the fan's behavior was too crazy. 

Arriving in China on his private jet, Messi kicked off his seventh visit to China. A member of the ground crew at the airport has been called by many fans the "luckiest man" in China as he was the first fan to get Messi to sign a classic Argentina team blue-white striped jersey. 

Despite an unexpected "passport incident" that held up Messi at the airport for a few hours, the star was seen opening the curtains and waving to fans while taking the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel. 

Holding both Spanish and Argentine nationalities, Messi forgot to bring his Argentine passport on his Chinese journey. This was a problem because the team's visa was only good for Argentine passports. The problem was solved after customs issued him an expedited visa at the airport. 

Messi will only play in the Argentina team's match against Australia in Beijing and will not go on to play in the subsequent away game against Indonesia, media reported. Rumor says that a Great Wall trip has also been scheduled for the star during his time in China.