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Inside Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami debut…a god in Southern Florida



Amidst the fervor of Lionel Messi’s MLS debut with Inter Miami, it was funny to recall that this Leagues Cup kickoff had been set long before he had announced his intentions to come to America—and that, however small their numbers, there would be fans attending the match who had simply intended to show up to support Cruz Azul.

“When I heard they were coming I thought, Oh, I’ll just buy tickets later on,” Diana del Valle, a supporter for the Liga MX club, admitted when we chatted in the DRV PNK Stadium stands in Ft. Lauderdale. She did, albeit at a substantially higher price than anticipated: Inter Miami tickets haven’t exactly been hot ones over the club’s time in the league, the club’s middling-at-best performance and temporary stadium located well outside of the city hardly providing incentive for the city to show out. But that changed immediately upon the news of Messi’s signing. Resale tickets to the Cruz Azul faceoff were rumored to be selling for tens of thousands of dollars, with some tickets listed in the six-figure range.

For everyone in attendance, it was worth the money. Cruz Azul may be del Valle’s club, but she’s been a fan of Messi long enough to have once flown to Barcelona to see him play at the club’s legendary 100,000-capacity Camp Nou. On Friday she joined a crowd of merely 20,000 to see the greatest soccer player of all time take the pitch in a makeshift stadium with fold-out bleachers 45 minutes from Miami’s bustling center. From billion-dollar sportswear brands to hometown fans, the collective consensus seemed to be that whatever credit card charges racked up for this were next week’s problems.

The club’s loyal fanbase, however, had little to worry about. Like most MLS clubs, Inter Miami boasts a loyal and fervent band of supporter squads that show out for every game—and almost certainly had their tickets locked in long before Messi’s arrival to the States. A couple hundred fans flocked to Domino Park in Little Havana the day before the match at the height of South Beach’s midday heat and humidity. They banged drums and shouted along to the club’s signature chants and songs, almost all of which are performed in Spanish. Chris Moramarco, one of the founders of supporter squad Vice City 1896, confessed that this moment validated years spent building a community around a team that hadn’t so much as played a scrimmage. “At first people didn’t know what we were lining up to do. There was no team, no colors, no logo. But we were there,” he explained.

“We’d heard for years [Messi] might be coming but we had our doubts it was ever going to happen.” Even after seeing him in the stadium the Sunday prior for his contract signing, Moramarco admits, he didn’t think it would sink in until he took the field for the first time. In just a day’s time, the club’s faithful would finally be rewarded.

Shocks of neon pink and black, the club’s official colors, littered the streets and beaches alike as fans flocked in on relatively short notice for the match. Billboards and bus signs bearing the simple image of the GOAT in his new hot pink jersey, with MESSI spray-painted across the graphic, were littered throughout the town. Those same jerseys flew off the racks of Adidas and Inter Miami team stores across town rapidly.

Online orders caused an unprecedented surge in demand so severe Adidas now may be fulfilling backlogged sales through October. There are worse positions to be in than stocking the hottest jersey in professional sports, though, and the brand celebrated their signature athlete’s arrival in town with a bombastic oceanfront stunt involving a shipping barge, helicopters, speedboats, and yachts.

But before there was a press conference or a contract signing or even so much as an Instagram post from Inter Miami (whose follower count ballooned from 1 million to 12 million in days after it was revealed Messi would join the club), there was Publix.

Last week, GOAT was spotted in the popular Florida grocery chain–a destination for cheap beach toys, spray-on sunscreen, and the store’s signature PubSub sandwich. He was, by all accounts, largely left alone as he browsed the aisles with his family and let his kids pick out some cereal. A few selfies were taken. He did not order a PubSub.

It is as fitting a public debut as a Florida athlete could have. Miami, for all its allure as a beachfront playground, is still Florida, and if you are a Floridian you must go to Publix. And now—as unlikely as it seems—Lionel Messi is officially a Floridian.

And on Friday night, he made his debut as an MLS player. The Florida sun dove past the western skyline as fans filed into the bleachers, the option to arrive late for the 8PM kickoff not an option. Becky G performed the national anthem as LeBron, Kim Kardashian, and Serena Williams greeted the GOAT near the bench.

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham sat pitchside with his family. Several of the most famous people in the world had congregated in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on a Friday night for this.

It must be noted here that Inter Miami is…bad. They’re very bad. When Messi signed his contract, they were in last place in the MLS Eastern Conference. It’s not news, either—this is a section of the standings they’ve occupied since their debut.

The team frequently looked adrift in the first half of the match ahead of their new forward’s debut. The heroics of goaltender Drake Callender saved the team from disaster, keeping a 1-0 lead at the half.

And then, nine minutes into the second half, Lionel Messi took the field. He did so in a round of substitutions that included his longtime Barcelona brother Sergio Busquets, who joined Miami with Messi after nearly 500 appearances with his home club. The long-simmering tension in the crowd finally boiled over, Cruz Azul fans joining Miami’s in rapturous applause. Two minutes later Messi’s first substantial push upfield garnered the sort of crowd response usually reserved for postseason buzzer beaters.

It is hard to say if Miami became substantially better when Messi’s boots touched the pitch. What was instantly notable was the degree to which the team settled into a sense of calm. The GOAT drove towards the goal and made attempts when the moments presented themselves, but he spent much of his time on the field setting up plays for his teammates.

Given the context, it was hard not to think of Messi’s accomplishments: Four-time winner of the Champions League. Ten La Liga titles. Seven Ballon d’Or trophies, given to the best soccer player in the world every year. Three Club World Cups and seven Copa del Rey trophies, plus an Olympic gold medal. And just last summer, one spectacular World Cup win that rendered most any argument against his status as the greats of all time moot.

What’s left? Well, lifting a struggling team out of the basement in the American soccer league—and lifting that league out of its own basement in the process—would count as an accomplishment.

What he accomplishes in Miami will have ramifications throughout Major League Soccer. The club’s success is the league’s success. He no longer competes for a cup but rather creation, for a new era of football built in his shadow, if not his image (at 36 years old, he can hardly have an MLS run of the same length as his time at Barcelona). To simply win is the work of mortals. The divine are in the business of genesis.

And spectacle. With the match tied up in two minutes of stoppage time, he secured a free kick. Lionel Messi lined up behind the ball, and sent it curving toward the goal. As it did 474 times in his days at Barcelona, the ball found the back of the net. After briefly celebrating with his new teammates, he ran to the sidelines to hug his children. Stoppage time ran out. The match was over. Beckham shed a tear. Messi smiled. There is much to be done in Southern Florida. Lionel Messi is ready to get to work.

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We have a modern sports administration in Lagos – Aiyepeku




Sports administration has moved beyond the outdated rhetoric that characterizes the Nigerian system and inevitably leaves the country behind when results do not match inputs.

However, things have become different in Lagos over time, especially since the administration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the helm of the Lagos State Sports Commission is ensuring that round pegs are put in round holes.

The duo of Mr. Sola Aiyepeku, Executive Chairman and Mr. Oluwatoyin Gafaar, Director General of the Sports Commission are goal scorers and technocrats in sports administration.

There has been synergy between the Sports Commission and other stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors in order to drive the THEMES agenda of Governor Sanwo-Olu.

Chairman Aiyepeku gave an insight into how sports is being run in the Centre of Excellence on Wednesday when he was the guest of over 300 journalists covering the ongoing 7th National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State. The Youth Games has witnessed a high influx of sporting media since its inception at the Asaba 2023.

Aiyepeku told the journalists that he was ready for any jab of questions from the sportswriters, as he knows his onions when it comes to facing the inquisitiveness of sporting media as he was on media practitioner.

The session at the media centre of the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba was very entertaining, informative and educative as some of the journalists later confessed to Independent News Express.

Aiyepek took the time to explain to the journalists how sports are practiced in Lagos State. According to him, the administration lacks the old-fashioned style.

He stressed that as an administrator who has seen it all in the world of sport and traveled near and far, he knows that modern ways of working deliver results.

He revealed how the Sports Commission has integrated over 400 games masters and mistresses from educational districts in Lagos State into a modern school sports system by given them retraining at a recent workshop.

“It was a kind of revolution because we showed them the best sports practices. Not only have we equipped them to carry out their active-duty duties, but we have also equipped them with knowledge so that they can be useful to the society and their families after their service,” Aiyepeku said.

He also revealed what the state is doing to ensure that no sport is left behind.

“We value development, which essentially means giving everyone a sense of belonging. We have also managed to separate and classify these sports so we can focus on the results.

“We don’t necessarily want to win at all costs like other states do, but we want to advance the development agenda. According to us at the Lagos State Sports Commission, we are not desperate as we see these youth games as a talent scouting program,” he added.

He said that the Sports Commission also places a strong emphasis on development, as many of Lagos’ athletes benefit from some form of grant to help them prepare for and compete in tournaments without stress.

Aiyepeku stressed that Lagos is a breeding ground for athletes and will continue to be at the forefront of ensuring the comprehensive development of athletes.

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Sports Minister Excited About Young Talents Emerging From National Youth Games




The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh has expressed his delight over the number of emerging talents being discovered at the ongoing National Youth Games, taking place in Asaba, Delta State.

Senator Enoh stated that the Games stays true to its purpose of providing a platform for young talents to be unearthed.

He noted that talents are not in short supply in the country, what is needed is the platform for visibility. He stressed that the ministry is not oblivious of this need, and his administration is determined to make available these platforms across the federation.

“This edition of the National Youth Games has given visibility to very talented kids that represent the future of our sports as a nation. Availability of talents has never been a problem for our sports, but instead, the provision of platforms for these talents to be seen has remained our Achilles heel,” the Minister said. “This administration is committed to ensuring that platforms are available for budding stars, especially in our rural areas.”

“While our elite athletes continue to make us proud, we want to guarantee the future by creating a production pipeline for emerging talents to come through, transition, get nurtured and collect the baton when the time is right on the elite stage,” Senator Enoh concluded.

At the end of Day 6, Delta State remained top of the medals table with 36 Gold, 25 Silver and 23 Bronze medals. Lagos State sits second with 18 Gold, 12 Silver, and 15 Bronze medals, while Edo State occupies the third spot with 17 Gold, 12 Silver, and 13 Bronze medals.

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Lagos Cycling Gold Medalist Canvasses For Regular National Tourneys To Keep Athletes In Top Form




The need to have regular local competitions is necessary to keep the athletes, especially the young boys and girls, who are outstanding in the National Youth Games in their top form and busy out of social vices.

This was the submission of one of Team Lagos cyclists, Isiaka Ibraheem who won two medals at the Asaba 2023 Games.

Ibraheem, a student of Government Junior College, Ikoyi, Lagos won a gold medal in the Point Race on Thursday. He had earlier won a silver medal in the Individual Time Trial.

While Ibraheem was so excited winning the gold and silver medals for Team Lagos, he wanted the sports authorities at both the state and national levels to organise more competitions to keep the athletes busy as lack of regular competitions slow down the development of the athletes in their choosing sports.

“We cannot demand for more at this stage if not for any other thing but to keep the athletes busy and in good form. When there is no competition, the form of these athletes would definitely go down. I want to beg the Federal Government of Nigeria to channel resources into exposing athletes from the National Youth Games to more local and international competitions,” Ibraheem said.

He gave kudos for what the Lagos State Government is doing for sports in the state, adding that the officials in Lagos Sports know their job and they take the welfare of the athletes serious.

“We have good training before traveling down to Asaba and this is what helped most of us at the National Youth Games,” he said.

Head Cycling Coach in Lagos, Lukman Oyebola also corroborated Ibraheem that more competitions are needed to give these young athletes future in sports.

He said if there could attention for Ibraheem, who had proven beyond reasonable doubt to be a good cyclist, the country would be better for it in the nearest future.

“Ibraheem is just going to 14 and the potential in him is great. I have no doubt that he would win gold in Asaba because he performed very well in tournaments we went to in Ibadan and Ogun State recently,” Coach Oyebola said.

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