Lionel Messi: Fans around the world flock to watch Argentina star play at Qatar 2022

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Doha, Qatar
CNN

Walk around Doha and it won’t be long before you hear people talking about Lionel Messi.

Memories of the superstar are all over Qatar 2022; from posters in metro stations to Argentinian sweaters hanging from market stalls.

Thousands of people – creating a sea of ​​blue and white – have come to see their hero in what will probably be his last World Cup tournament.

It seems you don’t have to be from Argentina to be a fan of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“I get to see the man himself,” Belal Ahmed, who traveled from the US to watch Messi play, told CNN Sport.

“It took a while, the flight from the US to Saudi Arabia was about 12 hours. I had a 24 hour layover there and then arrived here [Doha] two hours later.

“I’m here to see other games, but yes, mainly to see Messi.”

Ahmed was dressed head-to-toe in Argentina’s colors as he spoke for CNN in Souq Waqif, a neighborhood in central Doha popular with fans.

He was one of many to explore the traditional market wearing a Messi shirt, something that always attracts the attention of fans of other teams.

Messi is a name that seems to bridge any language barrier, with fans coming up to him and chanting his name as Ahmed speaks to CNN.

READ: For Messi and Ronaldo, one last chance at World Cup glory

The 23-year-old has traveled thousands of miles with his friends to see his favorite player play live for the first time, and he raved about what Messi means to him.

“It’s his game. The skill speaks for itself,” Ahmed said.

“It doesn’t matter which country you come from if you see that he masters the art of the sport himself. What’s not to like about him?

He’s also a very humble man. His personality will not put you off. Everything about him, especially his manner, is very attractive.

“But it is mainly his skills on the field. If Messi was an average player and his personality is what he is, I don’t think he would have that much appeal. I’m so excited to see him play.”

Messi is undoubtedly the most popular player among fans in Doha, where everyone is trying to find a ticket to see him in the flesh.

After a disappointing start to this year’s World Cup against Saudi Arabia, Messi showed his brilliance against Mexico with a sparkling goal to inspire his side to victory.

He must now face Poland again in his team’s final Group C match on Wednesday to ensure progression to the knockout stages.

The World Cup is the only trophy not yet in Messi’s cupboard, and the 35-year-old is in the last chance in Qatar 2022.

“I think to solidify his GOAT [Greatest Of All Time] status he needs the World Cup,” Ahmed added.

“I’d say he’s already the GOAT, but to get everyone on the same boat, he’s going to need that World Cup.”

Messi’s presence around Doha not only demonstrates the superstar’s appeal, but also strengthens his current club Paris-Saint-Germain’s links with Qatar.

The French side is owned by the Qatar Sports Investment group and posters of its star players, such as Neymar and Messi, are hung all over the city.

The Argentine is also used in advertisements shown on big screens in stadiums ahead of every match in Qatar 2022 and his name is being cheered by fans in bars and restaurants.

“I find the football that Messi plays fascinating. You can’t compare him, he can’t be compared,” Ratish Ravindran, who is from the UK but wore an Argentinian shirt, told CNN.

Ravindran had failed to secure a ticket to see Argentina play, but he still wanted to be in town to support his hero.

He enjoys watching games on the big screens all over Doha and celebrates Messi with thousands of other fans in the city.

“The amount he has already won in his career is amazing. For me he is the best player in the world,” Ravindran added.

Argentina certainly seems to be the favored team of the neutrals in Qatar and all its fans, from all over the world, will be hoping to see more Messi magic as the tournament progresses.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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