Fans, players and organisers alike were awestruck by the sight of the inimitableLionel Messi as the two-time world player of the year set foot on Bangladeshi soil with his Argentina team on Monday.
The magical marksman was received with more than a dozen garlands at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport as he made his way to the VIP lounge with a distinct smile etched on his face. Bangladesh’s national footballers, who were at the airport to receive the Argentina team, scurried to shake hands with Messi and his teammates, prompting some to later hail the experience as the best ever in their lives so far.
‘Worlds no.1 ke dekhte pellam. Footballer na sudhu, se ekta great human. Life e r kichu na dekhle o dukkho thakbe na. [I saw the number one footballer in the world. He is just not a footballer, but also a great human being. I will not have any regrets if I don’t see anything else in my life]’ midfielder Abdul Baten Komol wrote as his facebook status. Another national player Shakil Ahmed added in facebook: ‘Ajke amar arekta eid, Messi ke receive korlam [today is my Eid day, I received Messi]’.
‘Thnx god…messir shathe handshake korte
parae [thanks god, I was able to shake hands with Messi,’ said another footballer Rezaul Karim Reza.
There were contradictory statements over who greeted Messi first with defender Atiqur Rahman Meshu claiming to have done so, describing the experience as one he will cherish throughout his life.
‘I was confused as to whether I would get a chance to see Messi or touch him as there was forty of us with each one assigned to present floral wreaths to a different person,’ Meshu told New Age.
‘Thank God that I got the chance first. When I saw Messi coming towards me I suddenly realised that I was the person to give him the floral wreath. I froze for a second but snapped back to reality in time to greet him,’ he said.
Imtiaz Ahmed Nakib, a former national striker, however dismissed his claim and said Messi was first received by national captain Bilop Bhattachaja and former player Zakir Hossain.
No media were allowed to enter the VIP lounge and fans were also driven back, but still there was no shortage of enthusiasm among the groups. Hundreds of fans gathered on the pavements, rooftops and at the parking places, to steal a look through the window of the Argentina team bus and greeted him with chants of ‘Messi!Messi!! Messi!!!’
A strong, loud chorus greeted Messi as he entered the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel at 12:30pm. Members of Bangladesh women’s football team received the Argentineans at the hotel with floral wreaths.
‘I had always wished for a chance to take a snap with Messi. It was possible today, but I am still happy about being able to see the best player in the world,’ said Trishna Chakma, the captain of women team.
-With New Age input