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Lim Say Heng
The New Paper
9 June 2017
Instead of wowing the National Stadium next Tuesday with his intricate touches, Argentina superstar Lionel Messi is likely to be back in his home country, dealing with the intricacies of wedding planning.
Yesterday, reports surfacing from Argentina and Australia, where Argentina play Brazil in a friendly tonight, stated that the Barcelona playmaker and Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi will miss the friendly match against Singapore next week.
According to the reports, they are allowed to fly home to plan for their respective weddings.
"Otamendi and Messi are allowed to travel (home) after the game because the two of them are getting married," Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said in yesterday's pre-match press conference.
Separately, The Clarin, Argentina's biggest daily newspaper, reported yesterday that Messi's absence in Singapore was "an open secret", and that he wanted to be with his loved ones as he finalises preparations for his June 30 wedding to Antonella Roccuzzo, the mother of his two sons Thiago and Mateo.
Also, Otamendi is set to get married on June 16, and thus is given permission to miss the Singapore tie.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Football Association of Singapore and match promoter Unicess said they were aware of the reports concerning the Argentine duo's impending plans.
The statement read: "We are currently working with the Argentinian FA to determine the authenticity of the claims made in these reports and will provide an update as soon as we are able to."
Local fans reacted with disappointment at the news yesterday, with some asking if the organisers would consider refunds.
Tickets for the Singapore-Argentina match cost between $40 and $188, with some sections of the 55,000-seater National Stadium already sold out.
Netizen Clemence Chia said: "I hope organisers would be gentlemanly enough to allow refunds for those who bought tickets because of Messi."
Thomas Hoon added: "I kind of expected it as these trips are generally for second-string players trying to prove themselves.
"I am sure this was known to the organisers beforehand; Messi just woke up in the morning and say 'I (am) getting married?'"