Saturday, February 03, 2024
Tens of thousands of football fans flocked to Hong Kong to watch Lionel Messi train with his Inter Miami teammates as "Messi mania" spread throughout the city on Saturday.
Before a game on Sunday, supporters went to the Hong Kong Stadium to see the Argentine legend, the best player of his generation, after police blocked off the surrounding streets, according to AFP.
Expectant spectators were lining up outside the 40,000-seat stadium hours before Inter Miami went onto the pitch for an open training session, singing the name of the World Cup-winning captain.
David Beckham, who co-owns the Major League Soccer team, made an appearance to thunderous applause from a nearly full crowd.
But the 36-year-old Messi's applause when he emerged to join his colleagues on the pitch for a light workout almost brought the roof down a few minutes later.
The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner covered a nagging hamstring injury by spending the majority of the hour-long practice stretching; but, he did join 80 fortunate Hong Kong students for a kickabout during a coaching clinic that followed.
Beckham soon assumed responsibility for imparting some skills to the children.
However, the major reason the thousands of fans came was to witness Messi, since the team was playing a friendly against a Hong Kong Select XI on Sunday.
“It’s the first time in my life I see Messi,” said 17-year-old Chinese student Li Weiyi, who had travelled from Shenzhen, across the border in mainland China.
“I am feeling very excited. He means a lot to me. He brought me to the football world, he made me love football," he added.
The majority of fans wore pink Inter Miami or blue and white striped Argentina shirts.