‘I’m not mad, just disappointed’


Star soccer player Lionel Messi being a no-show for Wednesday’s night’s Chicago Fire game wasn’t a deal breaker for Miguel Hernandez, despite paying more than four times the ticket price as a surprise birthday present for his son.

With waves of people wearing pink and black shirts with Messi’s name scattered throughout Soldier Field, the Bolingbrook dad said he was excited to be at the stadium for the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Messi, even on the bench.” Hernandez and his 12-year son, Noe, are both soccer fanatics; Hernandez is a coach for a suburban youth league, and his son plays in the league.

Unfortunately for father and son, Messi didn’t show up at all.

The star Argentine soccer player did not make it to the field for the anticipated match of the Inter Miami FC vs the Fire.

“I’m not mad, just disappointed,” said Miguel Hernandez. “If you’re mad that he (Messi) is not playing, it means that you don’t understand the game.”

For Riazuddin Mohideen, 48, who traveled with his with his 8-year son from Nebraska just for the match, there were some hard feelings. Mohideen said he paid around $1,000 per ticket when he bought them two months ago.

At the time, he didn’t mind the price because his son Haaziq “loves soccer and his favorite player is Messi.” But when he found out that Messi was not going to play, it was upsetting. ”I’m disappointed but grateful to be here with my son,” Mohideen said.

Even without Messi, Haaziq carried a poster cheering for Messi. “I wanted to watch and cheer for both teams because Inter Miami has been in a losing streak,” he said.

Though most fans said they didn’t mind, the news that Messi wasn’t playing did bother some street vendors, said Jose Lopez, 60. Some vendors had ordered shirts to sell months ago and weren’t selling as expected.

”It was too much money. He (Messi) can’t be that bad that he can’t at least make a short appearance,” said Lopez, a lifelong soccer fan who was helping his friend to sell shirts.

Even before the game began, the feeling of defeat hung in the air outside of Soldier Field, where crowds gathered to tailgate ahead of the Chicago Fire match against the Inter Miami.

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Fans had paid big bucks to see the international superstar in action, with ticket resellers asking for hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the coveted tickets. Local supporter groups raffled off tickets as fundraisers. Billboards emblazoned with pictures of Messi popped up throughout downtown Chicago. The Fire quickly assembled ticket packages that included additional games along with the Inter Miami match.

With excitement building, the Fire were hopeful the game could break the franchise attendance record of 54,432, which was set in 2005 against the Columbus Crew.

But after Messi missed four of the last five games for Inter Miami and sat out an international game for Argentina during the same span, excitement had been replaced with disbelief. Resale ticket prices tumbled, with options as low as $50 available Monday.

Mindful that many of the hometown fans who bought tickets for the match Wednesday weren’t there to see the hometown team, the Fire announced Tuesday it was offering a $250 credit toward 2024 season tickets — or a $50 credit for single-game tickets — to anyone who bought a single-game ticket to Wednesday’s match, “regardless of which players are able to make an appearance on the pitch.”

“While we don’t yet know the official status of Lionel Messi’s availability for our match tomorrow, as there’s never a guarantee that an athlete will play on any given night due to several factors, we understand that many of our fans may be disappointed if they don’t get the chance to see him play,” the Fire said in a statement. “We realize that there will be many in attendance who are coming to a Chicago Fire match at Soldier Field for the first time, and we’re excited to welcome them to the Fire Family and give them an opportunity to become long-term fans by creating a wonderful, fan-focused atmosphere.”

Whether Messi would make an appearance or not, Wednesday’s game was considered a must-win for the Fire as they jockey for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Fire are locked in a three-way tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference table with D.C. United and CF Montreál, which holds the tiebreaker. With three games left in the regular season, Wednesday’s result will be critical for the Fire to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.


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