Footballer Lionel Messi, who enjoys immense popularity in China, arrived in Beijing on Saturday by private jet for a friendly match, where the winner of the World Cup with Argentina was greeted by jubilant fans. "Messi! Messi!”, chanted several hundred fans waiting for him at the airport, sporting the blue and white striped Albiceleste number 10 jersey, according to viral images posted on social media.
Several hundred others were waiting outside his hotel, not far from the banks of the Liangma River, popular with Beijingers for walks. The supporters, calm and rather reserved at first, suddenly shouted the name of their idol in chorus when they thought they saw Lionel Messi's bus, AFP noted. The world champion's arrival in China was the most discussed topic on the Weibo social network at midday. “I absolutely want to see Messi!” wrote a user in tune with other comments. “I still feel the emotions of the match which dedicated Argentina to the World Cup”, underlined another in reference to the victory of Albiceleste after a legendary final against France in December (3-3, 4 tab to 2) .
This is Lionel Messi's 7th trip to China, the last dating back to 2017, according to local media. World champion Argentina will play a friendly match against Australia on June 15 at the newly renovated Workers' Stadium in Beijing with a capacity of 68,000 spectators. The meeting will mark the great return of international football in China, after three years of health restrictions which have emptied the stadiums and led to a cascade of cancellations of sports competitions. The shock will be a revenge for the round of 16 of the World Cup organized in Qatar at the end of 2022, where Argentina won 2-1 against the Socceroos.
Lionel Messi, who chose to leave Paris Saint-Germain to pursue his career at Inter Miami, will also play another friendly match, against Indonesia in Jakarta on June 19, as part of this Asian tour.