Football: Messi could cast spell over national stadium

If proposal comes to fruition, Argentina and its biggest star might play friendly game here

Lionel Messi, a five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or, could lead Argentina in a friendly game in Singapore between June 5-13, a Fifa-designated period for official or friendly matches.
Lionel Messi, a five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or, could lead Argentina in a friendly game in Singapore between June 5-13, a Fifa-designated period for official or friendly matches.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the greatest footballer of his generation, could soon be showcasing his football wizardry under the iconic dome of the National Stadium.

The Straits Times understands that sports marketing agency Lagardere Sports is in talks to bring the Argentina national team, of which Messi is the captain, to Singapore for a friendly match.

The exhibition game is expected to take place between June 5 and 13, a period designated by world football body Fifa for official or friendly matches.

The Singapore national team host Chinese Taipei on June 13 in the 2019 Asian Cup third-round qualifiers.

Lagardere Sports, formerly known as World Sport Group and headquartered in the Republic, is the Singapore Sports Hub's commercial partner and is tasked with filling its event calendar.

  • June 5-13

    The possible range of dates that the Lionel Messi-led Argentina national football team could play at the Singapore Sports Hub.

The Argentina national team are ranked first in Fifa's world rankings and are two-time winners of the World Cup. La Albiceleste have World Cup qualifying matches scheduled in March and August but have no commitments in June.

Neither the Argentina Football Association nor Lagardere Sports had responded to queries from ST by press time.

Regardless of talks between Lagardere and Argentina, Messi and his international team-mates could still be in the region later this year.

Australian daily The Sydney Morning Herald reported in December last year that Argentina are set to play Brazil in a friendly match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in June.

If the Singapore trip comes through, it would represent a rare opportunity for football fans here to watch one of the game's biggest stars up close.

Messi, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, had retired from international football last June after suffering defeat in the Copa America final.

But the 29-year-old, who is the all-time top goal scorer in Spain's La Liga with 327 goals, reversed his decision two months later and was subsequently called up for 2018 World Cup qualifying matches.

Argentina are fifth in the 10-team South American World Cup group and the fifth-placed nation will face a play-off against a team from the Oceania zone.

Besides Messi, the squad also boasts a host of world-class talents like Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain and Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel di Maria.

In addition to the Argentina friendly, the National Stadium is also set to host the International Champions Cup (ICC), an annual friendly competition featuring top European clubs.

The ICC, which pits the teams against each other in matches around the world, has been held in Australia, China, the United States and across Europe.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United were among the teams involved in the ICC last year.

At least three matches will be played at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium in July and an announcement is expected to be made in March.

The last high-profile football event at the National Stadium was the Barclays Asia Trophy in 2015.

The quadrangular tournament featured English Premier League sides Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City, as well as a Singapore Select XI.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Messi could cast spell over national stadium'. Subscribe