Kolkata: Star footballer Lionel Messi`s magic failed to garner a packed Yuba Bharati Krirangan, an usual sight during a Mohun Bagan versus East Bengal local derby, but it did bring in a galaxy of celebrities and dignitaries from all over India here.
Chief guest M K Narayanan, who was introduced to the players before the match kicked off at 7:10 pm, confessed himself as a Messi fan, while the All India Football Federation boss Praful Patel too admitted his liking for the little genius.
But it was quite surprising why the Messi magic failed to see a packed house as about 80,000 spectators watched the match live in the 1,20,000 capacity Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
Among the Bollywood brigade, Rahul Bose came alongside retired former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia, while Ranbir Kapoor, Neha Dhupia, Shaan and Babul Supriyo were also seen cheering "Messi, Messi ..." from the VIP stands.
Even as the upper tier was almost packed, the middle and lower tiers on the left side of the VIP arena cut a sorry figure in front of the world`s most glamorous team.
Messi and his team were greeted with loud cheers by the crowd when they stepped on to the field around 6:20pm. The sporting Kolkata crowd also gave an equal cheer for the Venezuelan team.
However, the cheers were far less deafening than the boisterous and frenzied support generated during a Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal clash, which incidentally is listed by FIFA as one of the world`s top rivalries.
While entering, Praful Patel said: "This is the highest standard of football being seen in India for the first time.”
Of course, I am a Messi fan. But I`m here as a dignitary and want both Venezuela and Argentina to do well."