FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — ‘Messi Mania’ is in full effect in South Florida.
On Sunday, Lionel Messi officially became part of the Inter Miami team. He spoke to thousands of fans at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale ahead of the team's next game on Friday.
Young soccer player Liana Leon was pumped when she heard the news of Messi coming to Miami, “I just got really excited.”
Another young Miami soccer player, Charlie Pipken, said, “Messi’s really good, and we need him on the team.”
The duo were playing in a park with some other friends who also play soccer on Monday morning. They are the future of Miami’s soccer scene.
These young players, including Ana Lopez, who has been playing for 8 years, said she can’t believe they will soon be able to witness one of the greats in their own backyard, “I was happy because it can make the MLS go to the next level, and make other big names come to the MLS as well, and I thought he would be a really good addition to the team.”
Riley Pipken is a super fan. On Monday morning, he noted Messi’s career achievements on a piece of paper, not wanting to forget a single thing.
But he’s looking forward to witnessing something in particular, “Him doing some bicycle kicks because he’s only done one or two in his career, scored.”
30 minutes across town is another fútbol fan, Maximilliano Alvarez.
“ [I am] super proud of representing what he is doing for us and Argentinian passion of fútbol or soccer is,” he shared.
Alvarez owns Fiorito, an Argentinian restaurant in the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti. Since 2012, he’s been paying homage to soccer legends.
The name ‘Fiorito’ is after the hometown of Diego Maradona, one of the best soccer players of all time.
His number was 10, and so is Messi’s.
“I think everything is going to change even more,” explained Alvarez. “Now, with Messi here in the league, and then Copa America, and then the World Cup, that’s going to be a huge push even more. It’s grown so much, but I think it can grow even more, and Messi is the right person to push that through.”
The restaurant has trinkets all in honor of Messi and soccer, many of which have been brought in by customers who love the game.
But the most notable is a mural of the man himself that was painted back in 2018, but it’s gotten extra attention as of late.
“He’s just a humble guy who loves the sport, family, a father of three with a beautiful wife,” stated Alvarez. “And he went through so much throughout his whole career, and he never gave up. He just kept pushing and pushing.”
Alvarez and his family were at DRV PNK on Sunday, witnessing Messi in person holding his pink and black jersey.
Alvarez hopes to see him play Friday. But his greatest wish is to cook Messi’s favorite meal, a Milanesa Napolitana, and serve him a beer called the ‘Goat’, created for the ‘Goat’ himself.