Indonesian fans of Lionel Messi expressed dismay Friday after the star pulled out of a friendly in Jakarta, including one making a 12-hour boat and plane journey to the game who accused organisers of false advertising.
People have rushed to snap up more than 60,000 tickets for the sell-out Monday clash between Indonesia and World Cup winners Argentina after Messi’s face was plastered across advertising for the event.
But following days of speculation, fans in the football-mad country received bad news on Thursday that their hero would not play.
“I’m feeling sad and disappointed, mixed emotions,” 31-year-old shop owner Surya Wijaya Ang told AFP from the remote island of Banda Neira in the eastern province of Maluku.
“This was the biggest chance for me to see Messi play in person.”
On Thursday, the Argentina side beat Australia in another friendly in the Chinese capital Beijing, with head coach Lionel Scaloni confirming that Messi would not make the Indonesian leg of their Asian tour.
Having become a major fan of Messi during the star’s time at Barcelona, Ang has amassed a collection of around 200 jerseys adorned with his name.
He is planning to take a boat to the eastern Indonesian city of Ambon before catching a four-hour flight to Jakarta to attend the match.
Ang sold seven shirts from his wider jersey collection to pay for the 1.2 million rupiah ($80) match ticket, a steep price in the lower-middle-income country.
– ‘Marketing strategy’ –
The Messi fanatic is aggrieved and said organisers had seemingly promised an appearance by the superstar.
“Messi is an icon and you can say that 90 percent of the tickets were sold because of Messi,” he said.
“This was a marketing strategy for them.”
Other Indonesians took to social media to convey disappointment, with one offering to sell two tickets “because Messi is not coming”.
A video posted on Twitter showed a fan singing a guitar ballad with the lyrics: “Why don’t you come to Indonesia? Why you don’t come, oh Mr Messi?”
Another wrote: “This is the end of my idolising him… we won’t beg him to come.”
Indonesian football has been enduring a year of crises with a deadly stadium crush and losing the rights to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Despite having his Messi hopes dashed, Ang said he would travel to the capital for the game anyway.
“I’ve come this far, so I will still be going,” he said.
“Maybe I will see Lionel Scaloni,” he added, laughing.