India declines to host Lionel Messi-led Argentina friendly match

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A huge disappointment to the ardent football fans in the country, India has turned down the golden opportunity to welcome Lionel Messi-led Argentina in a friendly match. All India Football Federation (AIFF) has informed that India was unable to host a friendly during the month’s international window due to the high cost involved. There were slots for two friendlies in the month of June, dated 12 and 20, and Argentina was keen to play these games in South Asia.

Missed Opportunity

The champions of the game enjoyed massive support during their FIFA World Cup in Qatar last month and therefore, Argentina passed on the opportunity to play in the USA. They wanted to capitalize on their global appeal and chose South Asia as their destination.

Argentina’s Initial Plan

The initial plan of Argentina was to play in India and Bangladesh; however, none of the countries could come up with the necessary funds at short notice. Therefore, the world champions chose to play Australia in Beijing on June 15 and Indonesia in Jakarta on June 19.

Financial Challenges and Disparity in Rankings

Argentina has become the most desired squad since winning the World Cup, with Messi’s team charging a fee of $4-5 million (about Rs 32-40 crore). Given the economic circumstances in Indian football, AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran indicated that arranging such a large money was not possible. There is also a substantial gap in rankings between Argentina and India, with Argentina placing number one and India ranking 101st.

He further added, “For such a match to happen here, we need the backing of a strong partner. The kind of money that Argentina command (as appearance fee) is huge and we have limitations in terms of our economic situation in football.”

Potential Partnership with Argentina FA

The Argentina FA’s head of foreign relations, Pablo Joaquin Diaz, represented the Argentina FA in talks with AIFF. Both countries have expressed an interest in forming partnerships, and talks are ongoing. Prabhakaran stated India’s interest in partnering with the Argentina FA, including prospective engagement from their clubs.

Prabhakaran said, “We are interested in having some sort of partnership with the Argentina FA. There is lot of interest from Argentina too, even from their clubs.”

Argentina earlier played in India in 2011, with Messi captaining the squad to a 1-0 victory over Venezuela. Hosting Argentina as world champions this time would have been a huge milestone for India.

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