SINGAPORE: Fresh from their 1-0 victory against Brazil in the Melbourne Superclasico in Australia, Argentina’s football team landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport on Saturday evening (Jun 10) – with Lionel Messi in tow.
However, the Barcelona superstar and five-time Ballon d’Or winner will not feature in Tuesday’s friendly against Singapore at the National Stadium “due to personal reasons”, international match promoter UNICESS later confirmed in a media statement.
It added that Gonzalo Higuain and Nicolas Otamendi will not be taking to the pitch as well.
There had been speculation over Messi’s attendance, after it was reported earlier this week that he and Otamendi could miss the friendly, as they wanted to prepare for their respective weddings.
Channel NewsAsia understands that Messi travelled back to the airport a few hours after arriving in Singapore and joining the team at The Fullerton Hotel.
About 10 fans waited outside the private terminal at Changi Airport on Saturday – some of them had camped out for seven hours – hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite players as they zipped out of the airport grounds in a bus.
“I just followed a few stars on their Instagram and Twitter accounts. And then I just calculated the time difference from Australia. We just we went to Terminal 3, Terminal 2, and then we ran here to see if we could find them for five seconds,” said 19-year-old Eshaan Bhosle.
Jasper Chai, 16, had also been hoping to get up close with the football stars: “It’s a little bit disappointing, the fact that I couldn’t get close to them. But it’s just really a great experience to even see them, most of them just smiling and knowing that there are fans around that support them.”
“From this trip (to the airport), I managed to make so many friends here. It’s just amazing. Football is an international language,” he added.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli’s 23-man squad is a star-studded one, with Manchester United’s Sergio Romero, Paris Saint Germain’s Angel Di Maria and Juventus striker Paulo Dybala all set to start against Singapore.
The friendly was organised to mark the Football Association of Singapore’s 125th anniversary.