The hotly anticipated football friendly between Argentina and Singapore on Tuesday may have just lost much of its shine, with five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi set to give the Republic a miss.
Various Argentinian media outlets reported yesterday that Messi, 29, will play in today's friendly against Brazil in Melbourne, and then leave the team and return to Argentina.
They noted that new Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli confirmed yesterday at a press conference that Barcelona superstar Messi and Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi will not travel with the rest of the team to Singapore.
"Otamendi and Messi are allowed to travel (home) after the game because the two of them are getting married," he was reported as saying.
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Messi wants to be with his family during preparations for his June 30 wedding in his home town of Rosario, the Clarin newspaper, Argentina's largest daily, reported. He will be getting hitched to model Antonella Roccuzzo, the mother of their two sons, Thiago and Mateo.
Messi's decision is "an open secret", the Clarin report said, before adding that the Argentina Football Association had yet to confirm the news officially.
The absence of Messi, the undisputed crown jewel in Argentina's star-studded line-up, will be a blow to fans hoping to see him at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
Some were predictably upset at the news, with several netizens on The Straits Times' Facebook page wondering if refunds would be offered.
Others tried to take their disappointment in stride.
"The game is more of a special occasion (to celebrate the FAS' 125th anniversary) and comes after the Brazil match, so I was expecting some of the stars might not play at the end of the day," said administrator Kenneth Chong, 33, who has bought tickets to the game.
Civil servant Roszaimy Roslan, 30, pointed out that the Argentinian team will still feature a number of big names.
"There will still be stars like (Angel) di Maria and (Javier) Mascherano, so one fewer player makes no difference to me," he said. "I am not a big fan of Messi anyway."
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and match promoter Unicess said in a brief statement yesterday that they were aware of the stories about Otamendi and Messi.
"We are working with the Argentinian FA to determine the authenticity of the claims made in these reports and will provide an update as soon as we are able," they added.
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