Freddie Elaza Jr. and his father woke up before sunrise on the morning Lionel Messi had his first official training session with his new Inter Miami teammates. Wanting to meet Messi and take pictures, they arrived at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 6 a.m. Tuesday. A news helicopter had already been circling the training ground for at least an hour.
However, the 36-year-old Messi had already arrived by the time the Errasas family arrived, missing the opportunity to pick up the memento. Four hours later, they were still standing in the practice facility and stadium parking lot sweating with dozens of fans in the sticky 96-degree South Florida heat. They were all waiting to catch a glimpse of the man who is considered perhaps the greatest footballer of all time. Rather than spending the twilight of his career in football powerhouse Barcelona or in Saudi Arabia for more money, he has decided, shockingly, to play in Major League Soccer.
With Messi leading the Argentina national team to World Cup glory in December, and with Florida having the largest Argentinian community in the United States, it was no surprise to see so many Argentine fans, jerseys and flags here. But Messi’s disciples come from all over the world.
“It’s all here,” said Elaza, 40, from Honduras who now lives in Fort Lauderdale. “There are Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, Mexicans, and a lot of Americans.”
This is the power of Messi. Inter Miami were probably best known before he agreed to come here. cheating scandal The team is a new franchise that just started playing in 2020 and is at the bottom of the standings so far this season. But from the moment Messi announced his new home, he turned the world of Inter Miami upside down and put South Florida in the big spotlight.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner of the world’s best men’s footballer, Messi is more than just an iconic athlete who has become an almost mythical figure. He has already had, and will continue to have, a tremendous cultural impact on the city and region known as the unofficial capital of Latin America. The restaurant changed its menu to include Messi-themed dishes. Murals and signs of Messi appeared everywhere. Argentinian culture spreads through him.
“The magnitude of this announcement is mind boggling, no matter how much you’ve prepared, envisioned and dreamed about,” said Jorge Mas, a Cuban-American billionaire from South Florida and executive owner of Inter Miami. “If you were anywhere in the world and didn’t know Leo Messi was an Inter Miami player, you would have to live in a cave.”
Look no further than ticket demand.
Indeed, Inter Miami play at a stadium about 30 miles north of downtown Miami, which has a listed capacity of 19,000 and will be an alternative pending a larger venue proposed next to Miami International Airport. It is expected to be Completed in 2 years.
But prices for many tickets to Messi’s Inter Miami opener against Mexican team Cruz Azul on Friday have jumped from around $40 to over $300. He will not start and could only play part of the game as part of a new month-long tournament between MLS and Liga MX called the League Cup, which was already announced to be sold out.
According to Ticket IQ, the average secondary market ticket price for the rest of Inter Miami’s home games surged from $152 to $850, with road games seeing even more significant increases.
Some fans have picked up the Messi Inter Miami jersey, but the item is hard to come by online. memo Speaking at the official Inter Miami and MLS store run by sports apparel retailer Fanatics, he said: AdidasThe league’s official jersey supplier, “This product will be delivered in mid-October.” The MLS regular season ends around that time. (Adidas did not respond to a request for comment.)
Inter Miami have become the best-selling team in any sport since Messi’s new kit went on sale on Monday, according to Fanatics. The company announced Thursday that it has sold more Intel Miami merchandise since Monday than it has in the past seven and a half months in 2023.
“This will give us a level of global exposure that we could never have achieved without a player like Messi,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “Whether in South America, Argentina or Europe, he had a legendary career with Barcelona and France. His goal is to get as much interest in Messi as possible.”
Before Messi’s announcement, Inter Miami’s Instagram account had one million followers. That number had ballooned to nearly 11 million as of Friday, surpassing Italy’s renowned football club Inter Milan. All US Professional Sports Teams Saves 3 NBA teams.
“The city is a bit of a topic right now,” Inter Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin told a much larger than usual crowd of nearly 40 reporters who gathered before practice on Thursday morning. “People are really excited and it’s nice to see that.”
Nearly 500 media members qualified for Sunday’s Messi presentation event (broadcast worldwide in English and Spanish on MLS’ inaugural streaming partner Apple TV+), according to Inter Miami. Nearly 200 people were approved for Messi’s first training session. Argentinian TV and radio reporters broadcast live from their spots on the other side of the field and then from the parking lot, even though reporters were only allowed to attend the practice session for 15 minutes, as is often the case in the sport.
“This is the gift Leo has given to the sport,” said former football star and owner of Inter Miami, David Beckham. “This is about his legacy. He’s at a stage in his career where he’s done everything a footballer can do in this sport.”
Beyond athletics, Messi is one of the most famous people on the planet. At the Qatar World Cup, fans from Bangladesh and the Philippines were common, as well as fans from Argentina wearing his jersey and singing national team chants. For example, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, there is a 30-foot-tall Messi cutout.
Based on its popularity in Asia, the Argentine Football Federation had already launched plans for growth in the US market a year and a half ago. AFA chief commercial and marketing officer Leandro Petersen said the federation has a 30-year contract to build a new facility in South Florida.North Bay Village), or the existing one (Hialeah) can be renovated and used as a training center for the national team ahead of the 2024 Copa America tournament and the 2026 World Cup.
But with Messi’s presence, the federation has benefited and the schedule has accelerated, Petersen said. It used to be more difficult to compete with established American sports leagues such as the NFL and NBA, he said.
“What’s happening now is that various companies that didn’t invest in football because it wasn’t the most popular sport in the United States are starting to factor in football investments into their budgets,” Petersen said in Spanish.
Emi Danielcu, brand ambassador for local Argentinian steakhouse chain Byres Grill, who has frequently entertained Messi, his family and his Argentinian teammates, said Messi’s arrival has already brought greater recognition to Argentinean culture, products and food. He sees Messi’s presence as potentially having further ripple effects.
“We have an example of what Messi is producing in Florida today, but when he starts traveling for Inter Miami to other stadiums with higher capacity, like Atlanta United and 80,000, I can assure you that the impact he will have on every state is huge,” Danielk said. “So far, I don’t think people are aware of that.”