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Messi(ah) touches down

Lionel Messi showed yet again why he is the artful dodger. Even Diego Maradona couldn't evade the crowd that gathered outside the Kolkata airport like Messi did around 4am Wednesday. Dhiman Sarkar reports

sports Updated: Sep 01, 2011 10:39 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Argentina-footballer-Lionel-Messi-R-arrives-at-NSCBI-Airport-in-Kolkata-to-play-an-exhibition-match-with-Venezuela

Lionel Messi showed yet again why he is the artful dodger.

Even Diego Maradona couldn't evade the crowd that gathered outside the Kolkata airport like Messi did around 4am Wednesday.

But then, when El Diego came calling in 2008, he had long ceased to be football's presiding deity. Messi is altogether a different ball game - barely 24 hours ago he had yet again starred in a Camp Nou hit.

For the uninitiated, Camp Nou is the homeground of FC Barcelona - the club the 24-year-old plays for.

Can't blame Messi, who will be captaining his side in a friendly against Venezuela on September 2, for the feint.

With a 2,000-odd crowd at the airport, handlers had few options but to whisk the World Player of the Year away through a side gate.

In a white tee and pirate pants, Messi looked a bit overwhelmed in the pictures clicked on mobile phones that were soon circulating.

Long before the touchdown, visitors were barred from the arrival gate "for security reasons". Qatar Airways flight QR 294 from Doha was on time — at 3.10am.

To see arguably the best footballer of this generation, they came in all shapes, sizes and T-shirts. The Argentine white and blue stripes scored, though a Nani in a Manchester United shirt was hard to miss. There were Barcelona colours as well. All of them swarming the arrival gate, but The Flea just wouldn't show up.

The vigil continued, interspersed by cheers and posing for pictures with huge posters of the boy born in Rosario, Argentina, but made in Barcelona, Spain.

Members of an Argentina fan club from south Kolkata came armed with a huge poster of the squad that played the 2010 World Cup.

And when the rain came, the banners and posters kept the drops away.

Some climbed the pillars — a reminder of fans scaling lampposts in Barcelona's La Rambla last May to celebrate team's win over archrivals Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Messi didn't make an appearance, preferring rest to an afternoon press conference. But with a local TV channel beaming his team's "closed-door practice session", Kolkata did get a glimpse of the little genius.