Football: Lionel Messi leaves Singapore fans star-struck

Fans (top) waiting outside Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP terminal hoping to catch Messi and his teammates, including Angel Di Maria (foreground) and Nahuel Guzman.
Fans (above) waiting outside Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP terminal hoping to catch Messi and his teammates, including Angel Di Maria and Nahuel Guzman.PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM, FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE
Fans (top) waiting outside Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP terminal hoping to catch Messi and his teammates, including Angel Di Maria (foreground) and Nahuel Guzman.
Fans waiting outside Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP terminal hoping to catch Messi and his teammates, including Angel Di Maria (foreground) and Nahuel Guzman.PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM, FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Messi mania hit Singapore yesterday with the arrival of the football superstar and his Argentina teammates.

While media reports had said the five-time World Player of the Year would not be making the trip to the Republic, fans and media waiting outside Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP terminal got a pleasant surprise when they spotted him inside the team bus as it left the private terminal on its way to the Fullerton Hotel.

Unfortunately, Lionel Messi's visit proved to be a whirlwind one, with the player leaving the hotel three hours after landing at 5.15pm.

The Sunday Times understands that he is on his way back to Barcelona and will not feature in the friendly game against Singapore on Tuesday as he is preparing for his wedding on June 30.

Organisers also confirmed that teammates Gonzalo Higuain and Nicolas Otamendi would also not play at Kallang. Singapore lost 1-2 to Chinese Taipei last night in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier.

Despite getting only a fleeting glimpse of their hero, fans were left star-struck.

Temasek Polytechnic student Rajat Gupta, 18, who was waiting at the Fullerton said: "A glance... is enough. It's like a miracle that happened in front of my eyes... I will remember this for the rest of my life."

Some, however, were disappointed that Messi did not stop to sign any autographs and barely gave them a wave or a smile. Ong Yi Ling, 29, an IT executive, said: "It's disappointing because he could have done more than just walk away, like wave."

Despite Messi's absence, fans are still thrilled that they will be able to catch some of the world's best footballers in action, like Juventus' Paulo Dybala, Paris St-Germain's Angel di Maria and Manchester United's Sergio Romero.

The rest of the team showed they are not just here for a summer holiday by hitting the gym and then hopping on a bus for a closed-door training session at the Bishan Stadium, despite having arrived after a 71/2-hour flight from Melbourne just two hours earlier. 



PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Messi lands, Messi leaves

Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi arriving at Changi Airport yesterday evening. The footballer was in town for barely five hours on transit from Melbourne, where he and his teammates had beaten Brazil 1-0 in a friendly on Friday, to Barcelona. Argentina are here to play Singapore on Tuesday in a friendly to mark the Football Association of Singapore's 125th anniversary.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Messi leaves fans star-struck'. Print Edition | Subscribe