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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Messi-mania in El Salvador: The best bits from Inter Miami’s preseason debut

Inter Miami began their extended, globetrotting preseason tour by facing El Salvador’s national team in San Salvador on Friday night. The match would mark Luis Suarez’s debut for Inter Miami, but it was clear who everyone in El Salvador was most excited to see in person: Lionel Messi.

Fans tracked Inter Miami’s plane as it made its way to El Salvador…

A Messi fan tracks Miami’s plane as it headed toward Central America. (Photo: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

And when Miami’s bus first arrived at their hotel, waiting supporters rushed toward it chanting Messi’s name.

El Salvador president Nayib Bukele visited with the team for a photo-op ahead of next month’s national elections.

The day before the match, local vendors sold Inter Miami x El Salvador Messi shirts alongside a sea of Miami pink tops (of questionable authenticity).

Street vendor Ulises Amaya sells ahead of the friendly between El Salvador and Inter Miami in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo: APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

A woman checks Miami FC jerseys in San Salvador. (Photo: APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

Many of those pink shirts were worn by fans attending the game, making the crowd look more like one back in Fort Lauderdale.

One young fan in attendance went viral when a video of her mother surprising her with a ticket to the match hit social media. The club tracked her down and hooked her up with a Messi autographed shirt.

Miami trotted out its star attractions to begin the match, utilizing a 3-5-2 formation that could appear again once the MLS regular season gets going.

Although it’s been months since Miami’s last match and years since Suarez last played with former Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Messi, the four showed flashes of brilliance in the first half.

Just before halftime, with the score still 0-0, Messi was awarded a free kick in ideal position, but he couldn’t come up with the goal. In fact, no one could, as the match went on to end scoreless. Messi, Alba, Busquets and Suarez exited the match at halftime, making it through their shift without injury.

On the whole, the match itself was about what you would expect from a preseason opener, but it still provided the first taste of a new season of Messi-mania.


(Top photo: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

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