Delirious Kolkata welcomes cheerful MessiSeptember 1st, 2011 - 12:37 am ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Aug 31 (IANS) Over 2,000 delirious soccer lovers gave sleep the miss as they danced, cried and shouted slogans near the airport eulogising football magician Lionel Messi, who spent his first day here obliging adoring fans and doing a light tune-up at the Salt Lake stadium Wednesday.
Long hours of sleep to shake off jet lag, visit to the coffee shop at the team hotel for a small bite of chicken grilled sandwich, marked the Argentine soccer great’s day after he arrived in this football-loving city in the early hours.
Soon after his flight touched down at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Messi was virtually mobbed as everybody from the immigration officials to the security personnel started posing with the 24-year-old striker for a photo of a lifetime.
“As soon as he came into the airport, many almost fell over him. He was made to stand at the immigration for a long time as all officials wanted to spend time with him,” said an official of the Celebrity Management Group, promoters of Friday’s FIFA official international Argentina-Venezuela friendly match which has brought Messi to the city.
At the hotel, Messi was given a traditional Indian welcome with a marigold garland and a tikka. He later said he liked the colour of the garland.
The hotel chef had prepared delicacies which Messi is fond of, but the star went to sleep after munching only some sausages and sandwiches.
Fresh from his sleep in the afternoon, Messi was all smiles as he gladly obliged a young girl who wanted to click a photo with him and then jumped into the swimming pool with other members of the team.
In the evening, Messi was the star attraction at Argentina’s maiden practice session at the match venue.
He did some running and jogging to warm up, and played one touch with teammates.
In a light mood, the reigning world footballer of the year cracked jokes, as coach Alejandro Sabella divided the practising players into two sections - defence and attack.
Messi, who is set to debut as regular Argentine captain in Friday’s match, mesmerised as he foxed goalkeeper Esteban Andrade with a signature-tune feint to score.
He also took part in the team huddle discussing strategy with Sabella, for whom it was the first practice session with the national side after taking charge.
In the morning, Messi left his admirers heartbroken as the organisers packed him into a car and drove him out of the airport through a side gate straight to the team hotel.
Messi was accompanied by his Barcelona FC teammate Javier Mascherano. The duo reached the eastern Indian metropolis after playing the club’s La Liga game with Villareal Monday. Messi scored twice in the second half as Barca cantered to a 5-0 victory.
The crowd of mostly diehard fans of the 24-year-old football icon made it a carnival atmosphere in the airport’s vicinity.
Many sported the sky blue and white jerseys of the Argentine team, and carried flags of the Latin American side. Wild cheers of “Messi, Messi” were heard constantly.
“We will stay here the whole night. For the next few days we will only relish every minute of the historic occasion,” said Manas Dutta of the Nabin Sangha Fans Club, wearing Messi’s number 10 jersey.
Some of the soccer fans also had their faces painted in the colours of the Argentine or the Barcelona jerseys with Messi written on their bare chests.
Some of the Messi fans seemed emotional, with tears of joy rolling down their cheeks at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their hero from close range.
“I can do anything to have a glimpse of Messi today. I will see him today,” said a young man, who wore a Barcelona jersey with Messi’s picture.
Scores of scribes were left disappointed as Messi did not turn up at the media meet despite a prior announcement to the effect by the organisers.
However, the striker hogged the limelight with journos hurling a volley of queries to the two coaches about him.
“He is the best player of the world, both for Barcelona and Argentina,” said Sabella.
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Tags: argentine soccer, celebrity management, coffee shop, fifa official, footballer of the year, friendly match, grilled sandwich, group promoters, hotel chef, immigration officials, light mood, light tune, lionel messi, netaji subhas chandra bose, sabella, soccer lovers, star attraction, team hotel, tikka, world footballer of the year