Messi mania draws sports lovers, Bollywood stars, tycoons

August 22nd, 2011 - 9:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Ranbir Kapoor Kolkata, Aug 22 (IANS) Kolkata - the soccer mad hub of cricket crazy India - is gearing up to receive superstar footballer Lionel Messi for Argentina’s FIFA official friendly against Venezuela Sept 2. Ticket sales are picking up momentum, with soccer buffs from other parts of the country and even abroad lapping up most of them.

Bollywood stars and the country’s leading businessmen are expected to fill the high-priced, sleek corporate boxes.

Already star actor Ranbir Kapoor and filmmaker Anurag Basu have publicly announced they would come to watch “Messidona” - the name given to the FC Barcelona FC striker by the Spanish media for the playing style similar to Maradona - in action at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Salman Khan is also expected to be there though the promoters would not confirm.

“So far, eight corporate boxes have been sold to the UB Group, film stars and other celebrities. Each of the boxes costs Rs.7.5 lakh,” event promoters Celebrity Management Group executive director Bhaswar Goswami told IANS.

Till Sunday night around 26,000 tickets in the 1,20,000-capacity stadium have been sold. Tickets of the denominations of Rs.700 and Rs.2,570 are already exhausted.

While most of the buyers have purchased through internet, a counter opened at the Mohammedan Sporting ground has also started giving business.

“Sixty percent buyers are from outside Kolkata. There have been lots of booking by people from South Indian states. Some have been purchasing through travel agents,” said a CMG official.

Around 1,000 soccer fans from abroad have also booked tickets online.

The organisers have plans to open ticket outlets at spanky shopping malls, but the decision is yet to be firmed up.

The 24-year-old talismanic Messi would make his debut as regular Argentine skipper in the match. The star-studded Argentine squad, including the likes of Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Martin Demichelis, Jonas Gutierrez and Pablo Zabaleta, has already been announced.

“We propose to get the final list of players from Venezuela in a day or two,” said Goswami.

The Venezuela outing would also be the first match for new Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella after taking charge.

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