Porto Alegre: Lionel Messi has played football since he was born but now he hopes to realize a dream: to meet his namesake and five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The six-year-old from Alvorada, a suburb of Porto Alegre, is waiting at the gates of the Beira Rio stadium alongside his mother Lisiana Maier, hoping to speak to Barcelona and Argentina superstar Messi.
He’s wearing a Barcelona shirt and boots with Messi’s name stitched into them.
“His name is Lionel Messi. He loves football and really admires the way Lionel plays. We paid tribute to him by giving him this name,” Maier said.
Argentina play guests Qatar in the Copa America in Porto Alegre Sunday in a must-win match where the loser is sure to be heading home early and even the winners aren’t certain of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
The Maier family may not get another chance to introduce their son to his namesake.
“Since I play and my husband too, he was already playing with a ball from inside my tummy,” said Maier.
The young Brazilian has ‘exceptional talent, he has Messi’s calmness’, but he’s not left-footed like his idol.
Even so, his mother has coached him to use both feet, improving him as a player for his local club.
However, this was not to be a story with a happy ending for young Lionel Messi Maier.
Like the other Brazilian and Argentinian kids waiting to catch a glimpse of their hero, they were to leave disappointed.
And the Maier family won’t be able to see him live Sunday either, during the Copa America Group B encounter at the Beira Rio stadium.
Match tickets are so expensive that the family had to choose between ‘eating or going to the match’.