Argentina fans plead for Messi to reconsider | News | DW | 03.07.2016
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Argentina fans plead for Messi to reconsider

Argentina fans have braved wet weather in Buenos Aires to ask soccer star Lionel Messi to reconsider his retirement from the national team. The 29-year-old player shocked the sports world by announcing he would quit.

Messi had announced his decision to leave Argentina's national team after it lost to Chile on penalty kicks last week in the Copa America final in the United States.

"I think this is it. It's over for me on the team," Messi told reporters shortly after the match, which ended 0-0 and went to Chile after he failed to score in penalty kicks.

Argentina won't accept his resignation

Support for Messi has been strong on social media, with sports figures, artists and even politicians urging him to return. Billboards and signs across the city are also asking him to stay on.

And on Saturday, hundreds of his supporters turned out in the rain to plead with him to change his mind. "He has to come back - excuse the emotion - but it's what I feel," fan Juan Alberto Salas told the Reuters news agency. "For me, he's exceptional, a god."

A five-time World Player of the Year, Messi has played in three Copa America finals - in 2007, 2015, and 2016 - as well as in the 2014 World Cup final, with Argentina losing every time.

Messi, who moved to Barcelona as a teenager, has often faced criticism in Argentina because he has failed to deliver the country a major title - in contrast to his repeated success at his team, FC Barcelona. Ranked third among teams in South America's CONMEBOL soccer federation, Argentina is currently qualifying.

His supporters are hopeful that he'll return to play when Argentina faces rival Uruguay for a World Cup qualifier in September.

"Messi is the best player in history, both in Argentine and international football," fan Hernan Sanchez told The Associated Press. "I don't think we will see another like him in the next thousand years."

Copa America Finale | Argentinien vs. Chile - Lionel Messi

Messi missed penalties against Chile at the Copa America

Dogged by legal troubles

In the background of Messi's emotional exit are legal troubles. Last month he appeared in court to answer charges of tax evasion. Prosecutors allege he avoided paying 4.16 million euros ($4.63 million) in taxes, and the charge could bring two years' imprisonment.

But the player - one of the sport's richest - has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.

jar/tj (Reuters, AP)

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