It took a Chinese admirer of Lionel Messi hours of waiting, a costly hotel stay, and a grueling pursuit around Beijing, but it was all worth it in the end when he got a blurry photo with his idol.
Argentine icon Lionel Messi is now in the Chinese city for a friendly match against Australia on Thursday. He has been met by hordes of crazed football fans desperate to get a sight of him during his visit.
One of them is Liu Yuhang, a computer programmer from the province of Liaoning in China’s northeastern region who is now 26 years old and who has been in love with the World Cup champion since the year 2000.
“He’s not just an athlete, he’s an artist,” Liu said to AFP on Monday. “He’s been doing this for a long time.” “He has become a kind of belief for me and has provided me with additional meaning in life.”
When he learned that Messi would be making a rare visit to China, he stated that the news made him feel “really excited,” but he also understood that it would be difficult for him to really meet his hero in person.
Liu first joined the hordes of supporters waiting outside the hotel where the Argentina team was staying; however, he was unable to get a good sight of Messi on his way into the hotel.
Liu remained unfazed and spent more than 2,000 yuan ($280) on a luxury room inside, but he was once again prevented from committing his crime by the heavy security presence.
On Sunday, he saw the team coach driving out of the hotel on his way to a workout, and this was the first time he had the opportunity to seize it.
After a frenzied pursuit on his bicycle through the oppressive heat of the city, Liu finally caught up to the car as it was stopped at a red light.
His reward was a fleeting wave from a Messi who seemed to be bewildered as he was riding in the back seat, as well as a faraway selfie with the guy himself barely visible in the backdrop.
“At that very instant, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy,” Liu said. “I put quite a bit of money into this, but if I hadn’t… I might have always regretted it,” the speaker said. “I spent quite a lot of money for this.”
Messi landed in Beijing on Saturday and will lead Argentina against Australia at the Workers’ Stadium in the capital city, which was recently refurbished and has a capacity of 68,000.
This match is a replay of a match that took place in the round of 16 in the World Cup last year, which Argentina won 2-1 on their route to winning the championship.
Tickets for the exhibition game, which ranged in price from 580 to 4,800 yuan, were rapidly purchased by a number of people, including Liu, who was one of those who were not successful.
“I tried to buy one, but I couldn’t,” he said, adding that he intended to watch the match online with friends instead of being able to purchase a ticket.