LANDOVER, Md. – Fans were disappointed Saturday when international soccer player, and one of the stars of Argentina’s national team, Lionel Messi didn’t play in an exhibition game against El Salvador.
FedEx Field was the setting for an international affair, and almost 54,000 fans of both teams filled up the stands. While Argentina may be the 2014 World Cup finalist, the crowd favored the Central American country.
Mario Arevalo, 36, is a subcontractor from Atlanta. He is originally from El Salvador and drove nine hours to see his national team play.
He said that the feeling of seeing so many people from his country at the stadium was amazing. This is the second time he’s been to FedEx Field to watch El Salvador play. Last year he saw his team go down to defeat against 2010 World Cup winner Spain.
Almost 200,000 expats from El Salvador live in the Washington metropolitan area, including the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland, which explains why the Central American country prevailed in the volume of cheers.
Despite this, most spectators were excited to see Messi, who is considered one of the best players in the world, on the field.
Edwin Alfaro, 42, a Salvadorian construction worker from Brentwood, Md., attended the match with his friend Enrique Ayala, 31. He said it was a great feeling to watch his team play against Argentina and expected a good match. “There are kids of all ages here, and I hope they get to see a good game,” he said before the match started.
The game’s beginning was a little rocky, however, as Salvadorians and their players were baffled when the wrong anthem for their country was played.
The players slowly dropped their hands from their chests as the notes from the Isle of Man’s anthem filled the stadium.
CMN Sports, in charge of organizing the game, apologized in a statement and said it is takings steps to prevent it from happening again.
The team tweeted before the game that Messi would not be part of the starting 11, but spectators hoped he would get one run around the field. He injured his foot last week in a match while playing for Barcelona, his club team, in Spain and again in training. He was visible sitting on the bench.
As the game progressed with no sign he would take the field, the crowd chanted his name louder and louder.
Argentina’s coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said at a press conference after the game that team was not going to risk Messi’s health. “We want to take care of him,” he said.
Reach reporter Alicia Alvarez at [email protected] or 202-408-1489. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
This story has been updated to correct the team that Lionel Messi plays for in Spain. He plays for Barcelona.
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