Vandals break Messi statue into two

People walking past the statue of Argentina footballer Lionel Messi after it was vandalised in Buenos Aires.
People walking past the statue of Argentina footballer Lionel Messi after it was vandalised in Buenos Aires.PHOTO: REUTERS

BUENOS AIRES (REUTERS) - A statue of football star Lionel Messi in Argentina's capital has been broken in half, with the player's upper body, arms and head removed.

The statue on the Paseo de la Gloria walkway overlooking the River Plate was severed at the waist, leaving only the lower body and a ball.

City Hall said they do not know who was responsible or the motive for the damage.

"It was the victim of an act of vandalism," the city's culture secretariat said on Tuesday. "The city government is already working on repairs."

The statue was unveiled in June shortly after Argentina lost the final of the Copa America Centenario to Chile on penalties, a defeat that prompted Messi to say he was quitting the national team.

The Barcelona forward, who returned to international duty for World Cup qualifiers in September, is widely loved in his homeland. But he does have his detractors, notably those who are critical of his performances for Argentina, who recently lost three major finals.

The walkway has statues of Argentinian sports greats including racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio, basketballer Manu Ginobili and tennis players Guillermo Vilas and Gabriela Sabatini.

On Tuesday football officials in Rio de Janeiro too called on the police to take urgent action to stop "the destruction of the Maracana" after valuables were looted from the famous stadium.

Fire extinguishers, hoses, televisions and a bronze bust of journalist Mario Filho, who popularised football in Brazil, were among the items stolen.

The stadium underwent costly upgrades for the 2014 World Cup and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games and has been unused since late last year.

Pictures published in Rio newspapers showed seats missing and the turf dry, worn and filled with ruts and holes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline 'Vandals break Messi statue into two'. Print Edition | Subscribe