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Messi misses Miami’s Hong Kong friendly as organisers face govt funding cut –

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Messi Misses Miami's Hong Kong Friendly As Organisers Face Govt Funding Cut -

Lionel Messi’s three days of adulation in Hong Kong ended in heartbreak for his fans as the Argentine did not take to the field in Inter Miami’s 4-1 win against a local League XI in a friendly played in front of a sellout crowd on Sunday.

Spectators chanted “refund” and the Hong Kong government said match organisers Tatler Asia may face a reduction in funding after Messi stayed on the bench during the match.

The Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) had granted 15 million Hong Kong dollars ($1.92 million) for the event along with a one million Hong Kong dollar grant for the venue, the government said in a statement.

“Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organisers’ arrangement. The organiser owes all football fans an explanation,” they said.

“The MSEC will take follow-up actions with the organiser according to the terms and conditions, which includes reducing the amount of funding as a result of Messi not playing the match.”

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The organisers said they expected Messi and his former Barcelona team mate, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, to play and were extremely disappointed that they did feature in the match.

“Despite some news reports, Tatler did not have any information about the non-participation of Messi or Suarez prior to kick off,” they said in a statement.

“Messi and Suarez were deemed unfit to play by their team’s medical department, to everyone’s, including ours, disappointment.”

Miami head coach Gerardo Martino said playing Messi and Suarez could have posed a risk of aggravating their injuries.

“Well, Leo has swelling in the adductor (muscle)…. when we sat down with the medical team they voiced their view that it was very risky for this footballer to play today,” he told reporters.

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“In Luis’ case, he has a problem with his knee. He woke up swollen after the second match in (Saudi) Arabia. So he wasn’t fit for today’s match.

“We understand the disappointment from the crowd who came to the stadium today that Leo and Luis were absent,” he added.

ADORING FANS

Some 40,000 fans had flocked to Hong Kong Stadium for Saturday’s training session, chanting “Messi! Messi! Messi!” and holding aloft copies of his number 10 jersey as he and club co-owner David Beckham interacted with local children.

“I started watching football because of Messi. He’s been my idol since day one,” said 16-year-old Aasir Mubarak. “It’s my first day looking at Messi in person, so it’s going to be a very special day and I’ll remember this for life.”

The World Cup winner had been mobbed by adoring fans decked out in Argentina’s blue and white or Miami’s pink since landing from Saudi Arabia on Friday, with hundreds waiting outside the team hotel to try and get a glimpse of the 36-year-old.

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“I feel especially excited today because I’ve been a big fan of Messi since 2014 when I started watching football, but I never had the chance to get close to him,” said Gary Sheng, a 19-year-old student.

“Today, words can’t describe my feelings. When the football king is just a few metres away from you, this excitement is beyond words. I just feel incredibly happy.”

Hong Kongers clamoured for match tickets, costing between 880 and 4,880 Hong Kong dollars, when they went on sale in December, snapping them up within an hour amid excitement over Messi playing his first match in the territory since 2014.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner can expect similar scenes in Tokyo when Miami continue their pre-season tour with a friendly against J-League champions Vissel Kobe on Wednesday.

They kick off their Major League Soccer campaign versus Real Salt Lake on Feb. 21.

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-Reuters

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Bidding opens for Messi napkin that defined soccer great’s career

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A guest looks at a napkin, written on by Barcelona's Sporting Director at that time Carles Rexach on December 14, 2000, promising a contract to secure 13-year-old Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona, on display at Bonhams Auctions in New York City, U.S., March 6, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Bidding began on Wednesday for a napkin on which soccer club Barcelona penned a promise to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi – who went on to become one of the game’s greatest players – with early bids reaching almost $300,000.

The napkin was signed in December 2000 when Carles Rexach, then Barcelona’s sporting director, agreed with agent Horacio Gaggioli to recruit the Argentine teenager who went on to become the club’s all-time top scorer.

Bidding for the document, described by auction house Bonhams as “blue ink on a standard Spanish waxy napkin,” was at 220,000 pounds ($274,824.00) shortly after the sale opened, according to the auctioneer’s website.

The online sale closes on May 17 and has a guide price of between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds.

“It was never legally binding, but emotionally it represents the deep link or the beginning of the deep link, that Messi had with Barcelona,” said Bonhams Chief Marketing Officer Marc Sands.

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Messi helped Barcelona win 35 titles, making a record 782 appearances and scoring 674 goals. Messi left Barcelona in 2021 and now plays for Inter Miami.

“If you love football, you’ll know all about Lionel Messi and you will know that he defined football for generations. If you want a slice of that action, this is the thing to get,” Sands said.

-Reuters

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Maradona’s children wants body exhumed

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A fan of Argentine soccer superstar Diego Armado Maradona celebrates the idol's 35th anniversary of the "goal of the century", against England during the 1986 World Cup played in Mexico, in Buenos Aires, Argentina June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Diego Maradona’s children filed a request with the Argentine Courts on Thursday to move the former football great’s body “to a much safer place” and for fans “to pay tribute” in a mausoleum.

Maradona’s remains lie in a private cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires where he was carried in November 2020 in a massive funeral procession. Only family members are allowed to enter the cemetery.

The mausoleum, called “Memorial del Diez,” is located behind the Casa Rosada, the seat of the executive branch of the Argentine government, and will be open to the public, Veronica Ojeda, mother of Maradona’s youngest son, told local media.

“All the heirs request by common agreement to authorise the transfer to his next destination of eternal rest (…) in a much safer place than the current one,” said the note presented to the court signed by Dalma and Gianinna Maradona, and Ojeda on behalf of Diego Maradona Jr.

“And so that all the Argentine people and the citizens of the world can pay homage to our father who was the greatest Argentine idol.”

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The relocation will take place around Oct. 30, the birth date of the 1986 World Cup winner with Argentina, one of the family’s lawyers told reporters.

Maradona died at age 60 in November 2020 from a heart attack. Fans of Napoli and of the Argentine national team worshipped him as the “god of football.”

-Reuters

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Revealed! Brazilian Magazine Funded Dani Alves’ €1m Bail –

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From Trouble To Trouble; Dani Alves To Face Justice Again In A New Case In Brazil -

A Brazilian magazine has reportedly been identified as having paid Dani Alves’ €1m (£850,000) bail after the former Barcelona star was released from prison.

Alves was released from prison on Monday after depositing the funds having spent 13 months in jail.

The 40-year-old had been held at Brians 2 Prison near Barcelona since January 2023 after being accused of raping a young woman in a nightclub bathroom in the Spanish city in the early hours of December 31, 2022.

He was found guilty of rape last month and was handed a four-and-a-half year prison sentence, which he subsequently appealed. Alves pleaded to be released on bail, and his bail bond was set at €1m.

It appeared that he would struggle to raise this figure due to the Brazilian reportedly having two empty bank accounts and another in the red, but he managed to pay the fee on Monday and was released from prison.

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The source of the payment has been the subject of speculation, with Memphis Depay‘s agent denying reports the Atletico Madrid forward had paid Alves’ bail.

Brazilian team-mate Neymar’s dad had been expected to help Alves pay the money to secure his freedom, but he issued a statement denying he would hand over any cash after coming under political pressure in his homeland.

Spanish journalist Marisa Martín Blazquez, speaking on Fiesta, reported that a Brazilian magazine paid Alves bail in exchange for an interview.

Blazquez said the Alves would have been requested to ask his model wife Joana Sanz to feature as part of the interview.

‘The magazine, known in Brazil, does great reports on important people in Brazil, but also internationally,’ Blazquez said.

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‘There are a series of requirements that must be met.

‘An interview would be being conducted as a video report on Alves’ story and, in addition, Alves would have asked Joana Sanz to participate in this report.

‘[The payment] would have been an advance as payment for that documentary-type interview that is being done.’

Sanz revealed last year she had demanded a divorce after Alves admitted for the first time to having sex with the woman he was found guilty of raping, but claimed as he still does that the relations were consensual.

The 31-year-old brunette later said the divorce had been put on hold and she gave evidence on Alves’ behalf at his trial from February 5 to 7.

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Alves is on provisional release and will usually attend court hearings on Friday.

He is understood to have complied with the other orders of the three judges who said he could leave jail despite his recent rape conviction by handing in his Spanish and Brazilian passports.

Keen to make the most of his life outside prison walls, he was reported to have celebrated one of his first nights of freedom with a lavish party.

Alves was convicted of raping a 23-year-old woman in the toilet of an upscale Barcelona nightclub, Sutton, over a year and a half ago.

The jail sentence he received, considered lenient by some critics, was far less than the nine years public prosecutors demanded and the 12 years Alves’ female accuser wanted if he was convicted.

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Previous attempts from the footballer to be allowed bail had been rejected by the courts largely because he was viewed as a potential fight risk, and the player’s home nation, Brazil, does not extradite citizens sentenced abroad.

 

 

 

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