By Chris Wright
Squeaky clean Lionel Messi has caused a bit of a stir in Gabon, chiefly for turning up for a whistle-stop public appearance in the country looking anything but earlier in the week.
The visit was supposedly organised by Samuel Eto’o, a close friend and advisor to Gabonese president Ali Bongo Ondimba – who gave Messi a VIP tour of the capital city, Libreville, before the Barcelona star was asked to lay the first stone of a new stadium being built for the 2017 African Nations Cup.
However, Messi has since attracted criticism from the people of Gabon, principally for wearing a pair of tatty shorts and looking, perish the thought, a bit dishevelled for his meeting with the President.
A statement from the Union du Peuple Gabonais (UPG) political party read:
“The messiah of football arrived in Gabon like he were going to a zoo: dirty, unshaven and his hands in his pockets, looking for peanuts to throw to them!
“When you’re called Lionel Messi and you’re a multi-billionaire, you don’t have the right to present yourself to officials of a republic, even a banana one, with your hands in the pockets of a ripped, tattered pair of shorts.
“Gabon isn’t a zoo. We don’t know what the Argentine came to Gabon for, but we at least have the right to denounce his negligence and his lack of respect for standards and principles.
“We are uneasy with Messi’s attitude and his attire. Only for these reasons, linked to respect for the host country, do we condemn the footballer’s indelicateness, to say the least!”
The very cheek of the man. Won’t somebody please think of the children?
France Football initially reported that Messi was paid €3.5million to drop in and show his face in Gabon during his five-day trip around Africa – though Messi has denied he was paid a cent for his appearance, with Spanish paper El Mundo Deportivo also claiming to have independently verified that money did not change hands.
Instead they reckon that Messi made the visit as a courtesy to a couple of ex-Barcelona directors who now hold positions high up in Gabonese FA.
These footballers and their summer shenanigans. What’s wrong with a week’s caravanning in Skegness?