Messi to play in Kolkata in September
Kolkata: It`s good news for football-crazy fans of the city as Argentine superstar Lionel Messi and his teammates are playing a FIFA official international friendly match against Venezuela at Salt Lake`s Yuba Bharati Krirangan on September 2.
After rounds of rumour, the official confirmation came on Monday when Celebrity Management Group along with the state government, All India Football Federation and Indian Football Association announced this at a press conference on Monday.
"The Argentina Football Association had indeed signed a contract to bring in the full-strength squad including Messi and Carlos Tevez among others. So the contract guarantees their participation," said Bhaswar Goswami of CMG.
The city-based sports management firm that had earlier brought football legend Diego Maradona in 2008 would also organise another international friendly match between Argentina and Nigeria in Dhaka on September 6.
"We were given the match in condition that we have to buy another. We did not think twice and bought both the matches just to make Messi play in Kolkata," Goswami said.
The Barcelona star forward and winner of the FIFA Ballon d`Or award was recently instrumental in his club`s Champions League win.
Giving a brief detail about the itinerary, he said Messi and Co. would stay here for four days, beginning August 30.
"We are also planning several other events which will be announced later. We are thinking of a minimum ticket price of Rs 1000 -- about USD 20, a nominal price compared to the ticket prices in other international friendlies."
"Those who could not afford to make the match, we would give them another chance for both the teams practice sessions the tickets of which would be at a cheaper price," Goswami added.
West Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra said he is getting full support from the chief minister to clean up the `mess` in the stadium where Messi is going to play.
"The stadium is completely in a mess. The garbage there has been piled up for 34 years. We are leaving no stone unturned to make the stadium international match-worthy," he said.
"It`s difficult to give YBK a complete facelift in such a short period. Our list of priorities include better toilets, changing rooms and passage ways. We will also bring a generator from a Chennai firm to avoid the frequent blackouts in the stadium," Mitra said.
All India Football Federation vice-president Subrata Dutta said that the match would be a turning point in India`s football history.
"This would inspire others to organise more such matches. It`s going to be a historical day," Dutta said.
In the same vein, IFA secretary Utpal Ganguli said, "I don`t think it would improve our standard of the game but surely it would popularise the sport. I am sure it would help more and more people turning away from EPL and other leagues
The match is scheduled to begin from 7pm.
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