Miami’s Argentinian community is one of the largest in the United States – and they’re celebrating this week because soccer superstar Lionel Messi is moving to their city to play for MLS club Inter Miami.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The biggest buzz in Miami this week wasn’t news of former President Trump being indicted or the Miami Heat trying to stay alive in the NBA Finals. No. It’s a word that soccer legend Lionel Messi will play for MLS Club Inter Miami, although details of the deal are yet to be known. Veronica Zaragovia of member station WLRN in Miami spoke to fans of the Argentinian community in the city. They are eagerly awaiting Messi’s arrival.
VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: Miami Beach’s Pele Soccer store sells jerseys from teams around the world. Store manager Hudson Michel grabs a pile of roses, certain they will become bestsellers. That’s because these are Inter Miami FC jerseys. Michel peels off the plastic over the black letters spelling out Messi’s name. He uses a heat press to add it to the back.
HUDSON MICHEL: So business is going to be booming. The traffic is definitely – it’s going to be crazy. But hi; he is one of the best players of all time. He is the GOAT.
SARAGOVA: The GOAT, or the greatest of all time, confirmed the rumor in an interview with Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo.
(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)
LIONEL MESSI: (Speaking Spanish).
SARAGOVA: “I made the decision. I’m going to Miami,” Messi said. In this same street of the football store, Armando Gomez scrolls through dozens of WhatsApp messages that make his phone vibrate.
ARMANDO GOMEZ: (speaking Spanish).
SARAGOVA: “My friends say Messi wanted the warmth of Miami, the warmth of the people, the Latinos,” Gomez said. And he’s from Venezuela, but a lot of Latinos here are from Argentina, just like Messi. One of them, Florencia Friedlander (ph), works as a waitress in an Argentinian cafe near South Beach.
FLORENCIA FRIEDLANDER: (speaking Spanish).
SARAGOVIA: “People will fill the stadium,” she says, “and Argentinians will be lining up for days because that’s what we do.” After all, South Florida has one of the largest Argentine communities in the United States.
FRIEDLANDER: (speaking Spanish).
SARAGOVIA: “Americans are not used to showing emotions like we do. We are passionate,” she says. “And if you add Messi to the mix, the passion boils over.” Ethan Reta, whose father is Argentinian, plays in a Miami Beach soccer club.
ETHAN RETA: Wherever I’ve been, have you heard of Messi? Have you heard of Messi? It’s crazy. People can’t get enough. I’m really excited to be able to watch the greatest player of all time play, like, in my own city. It’s crazy.
SARAGOVA: Inter Miami could really use the kind of excitement generated by the man who won the last World Cup. The team currently sits at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. But already ticket prices are skyrocketing for football games later this summer when Messi could play. For NPR News, I’m Veronica Zaragovia in Miami Beach.
(SOUND EXTRACTION OF ADANNA DURU’S SONG, “POP!”)
NPR transcripts are created in peak time by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.