Messi is not participating, so the stands at Drive Pink Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, home of Inter Miami, remained half empty during the last home match of the season. On the big screens above the short sides, the Argentine can be seen in parts of his new documentary, but the real Messi remains hidden in a chair behind the dugout. His teammates are playing in a draw (2-2) against Charlotte FC.
Anyone who wants to see him in action for Miami this season should go to China, where the club will play two tryout matches early next month. The absence of the MLS playoffs creates space for the promotional round. When the world champions took charge, the club was already in an almost desperate situation, with Messi barely playing in recent weeks.
About the author
Koen van der Velden describes De Volkskrant About sports in the United States. Lives in New York.
His first stint in Miami was exciting. He was particularly impressive in the League Cup between the American and Mexican teams. Messi scored after his debut on July 22 and won the cup championship. But the many minutes, sometimes in extra time, took their toll: the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was injured and Miami started losing again as usual. This is how misimania reached an increasingly lower level.
Waiting in vain
Some fans are not happy that he played for Argentina against Peru the evening before the match against Charlotte, while he was absent from Miami shortly before due to injury. The American competition, which lasts from spring to fall, does not stop with international soccer. Now he’s on the field, but countless kids wearing pink Messi jerseys in Miami can’t see their hero in action. After the match, they wait in vain at the stadium gates. “Look, here he is!”, a father caresses his young son. I don’t like the joke.
The absence of the little magician has led to great disappointment in recent weeks among football fans who have had to dig into their pockets for a ticket. “I can imagine it,” said Ian Melmud, a Miami fan since owner David Beckham’s club made its MLS debut in 2020. He came to the stadium with his daughter. “Tonight is a bit like it was before Messi arrived. You can sit wherever you want.
Melmoud resigned due to the Argentine’s absence. “I’ve seen him often this season. Once before, at Barcelona. But if this had been my only chance to see him, I probably would have been angry too.
There was great excitement earlier this month in Chicago, where Messi’s expected arrival sold out tickets to Soldier Field (62,000 spectators). When it became known shortly before the match that he would be absent, Chicago Fire offered viewers who showed a voucher for future matches. However, many felt cheated.
The anger among the fans surprised Miami coach Gerardo Martino. The Argentine said: “For me as a coach, it is difficult to understand why I have to explain to the opposition fans why our best player is not participating.” “They won’t make a problem anywhere else.”
At home, Miami is rife with dissatisfaction with ticket prices. Recently, loyal fans were up in arms over the doubling of season ticket prices. They will cost at least $884 next year, much more than top European clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool. Die-hard Miami supporters threatened to boycott the match, but after discussion with club management, they left only celebratory flags and drums at home.
Since Messi’s arrival, Melmoud has been unable to attend every match. “It has become very expensive,” he says. “But it’s a necessary evil.” We have many more Messi fans in this area than Inter Miami fans. There is a need for someone like Messi to increase the popularity of the club and the sport.
He remains traumatized by his support of the Miami Fusion, the MLS club that debuted in 1998 but folded after three seasons. “I was afraid we would lose another team, but that won’t happen anymore,” he says. “So yes, I’m happy with Messi.”
Commercially, its arrival in the United States was a huge success. Miami’s pink jerseys bearing his name are popular around the world; It was discovered that running on the shirt caused a shortage of pink fabric at Adidas the The New York Times. In Miami, Messi earns $20 million annually, and on top of that he receives sponsorship money from Apple and Adidas, among others.
After winning the League Cup, Miami fans are counting on new sporting success. Rumors of a possible reunion with Barcelona friends Messi and Luis Suarez are raising expectations, with Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets having previously joined. “If the season started today, we would be favourites,” Melmud is optimistic. He added: “Messi has become a little older and more vulnerable, and this was already clear this season. But if he remains fit, we will strive to win the championship.”
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