As Lionel Messi continues to prepare for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil -- a tournament he and his native Argentina will be expected to perform well at -- the superstar has come under fire for not fulfilling an agreement to play a match at the Los Angeles Coliseum as part of his 'Lionel Messi and Friends' soccer tour.
The 26-year-old Barcelona star was playing a scheduled match in Lima, Peru as part of his international tour and during the game, a press release indicated that Messi's next contest -- set to be played at the L.A. Coliseum -- was being pulled from the schedule. With no true explanation, this is certainly not the publicity Lionel Messi needed after he was recently involved in an alleged tax evasion scandal.
According to Yahoo Sports, the news that the match would not be played angered those both sponsoring the event and planning to attend because the event's Twitter page indicated mere hours before the press release broke that the match would in fact go on as planned.
Beginning on June 29 in Colombia, the set of games features some of the best players in the world including Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero, Robert Lewandowski, Gerard Pique and others.
As the Los Angeles Times indicates, the cancelled match -- originally scheduled for Wednesday, July 3 -- was apparently hanging on by a thread since there was never a significant level of publicity to help promote the competition that would have featured some of the best international figures on the planet. It didn't help that Lionel Messi reportedly did very little to help sell the upcoming friendly as well.
The match appeared to be on shaky ground from the moment it was announced. Promoters held one news conference and did little publicity or community outreach despite the fact tickets had a face value of up to $300.
The game was scheduled during the busiest week of the soccer calendar in Southern California, one featuring visits by five national teams, including the U.S. and Mexico, two Mexican club teams and an Independence Day game with the MLS champion Galaxy. Messi, it appears, did even less work promoting the game.
Obviously upset with the cancellation of the match only 26 hours before the game was to be played, Todd Graham, CEO of event sponsor El Padrino, voiced his displeasure with the way the situation was handled and put most of the blame on Messi.
"After hours of trying to convince Lionel Messi's management team to fulfill their contractual agreement and come to Los Angeles, it is clear they have no respect for these fans and this market," Graham told Goal.com. "We feel that this is a blatant attempt to defraud American citizens and businesses that sponsored this event."
The 'Lionel Messi and Friends' tour is scheduled to conclude on Saturday, July 6 at Chicago's Soldier Field. Those who want to receive a refund for the suddenly cancelled Los Angeles match are asked to contact Ticketmaster.com.