Taken aback, the crowd fell silent. As she chanted “Messi! Messi! Inter Miami CF owner Jorge Mas waved to the stage in a brand new pink jersey. His number: 5. It was for Sergio Busquets. Lionel Messi’s 10 was to follow a few moments later, in a staging that was improvised at times in the image of MLS.
Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, ex-captain of FC Barcelona, where he played 18 seasons, was served to fans as an aperitif. The main course would follow. But the taste in the mouth surprised almost everyone present Sunday at the DRV PNK stadium in Fort Lauderdale, north of Miami. None of the team-coloured shirts worn by the spectators bore a number other than Messi’s 10.
Quite a gift
“Today, it is a gift that I make to the city which was so able to welcome all my family several years ago already”, specified the microphone the billionaire Jorge Mas, whose speech, as almost the entire presentation, moreover, took place mainly in Spanish.
It was beautiful. It was big. Maybe a little too big to be true. Inter Miami CF has the smallest stadium in all of MLS. To accommodate too large a crowd now that head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino – also newly appointed, also a former FC Barcelona player – will be able to include Messi and Busquets in his starting XI, we have urgently installed in the corners between the existing stands of temporary bleachers borrowed from the Formula 1 Grand Prix, which took place nearby in early May.
The urgency is not feigned: the two new players could animate the action on the ground as early as next Saturday, within the framework of a brand new North American tournament called Leagues Cup. This tournament pits teams from the MLS and the Mexican Liga MX against each other. A little more and we included the teams of the Canadian Championship… Inter Miami begins the competition by facing Cruz Azul, a team from Mexico.
In Miami on Sunday evening, however, the new bleachers remained empty for a while, the time for a storm that lasted a good two hours to pass. In this outdoor stadium, spectators have almost only their vehicle to protect themselves from the weather. Fortunately, the lightning and the thunder did not get the better of their good mood, which we felt was rather thin once the new players were introduced.
Musicians were invited to entertain them – the Colombian singer Camilo and the South American collective Bresh. Their performance was pushed back to the end of the evening due to weather. They didn’t get much interest from them, despite the exaggerated effort and loudness.
We have had the impression since the beginning of the season that the North American soccer league wants to grow faster than it can. His lucrative agreement with Apple for the almost exclusive online broadcasting of all his matches, which occurred at the beginning of the year, allows him to dream. Apple TV provides match commentary in three languages: English, Spanish and French.
That’s all it takes for MLS to imagine itself as an international showcase for North American talent. Inter Miami CF is largely oriented towards a Spanish-speaking audience that now transcends the borders of Florida and the United States, reaching as far as Argentina. In Montreal, the CF is the “football club”. In Miami, it’s the “fútbol club”.
Perhaps the management of the team, which counts in its ranks the former English player David Beckham, does it also have its sights turned towards Europe? After all, it was during a friendly match between Inter Miami and FC Barcelona that Sergio Busquets fell in love with the pink flamingos… “This team impressed me when I came here to play with Barcelona last year. last year,” said the 35-year-old. “I look forward to bringing the success and ambition this team deserves. »
If Inter Miami CF can represent MLS in friendly games abroad in the next few years, it will not be the presence of Busquets or Messi that will slow this process down…
Messi with family
By landing in Miami, Lionel Messi also becomes the most famous player to join the ranks of MLS since David Beckham, who played for the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2007, before founding his own team in Florida.
“We are building a very special team, so you will excuse me if I am a little emotional at the moment,” Beckham admitted on stage, just before Lionel Messi, accompanied by his wife, walked towards him. Antonela Roccuzzo, and their three boys, Thiago, Mateo and Ciro.
The family aspect of the evening is significant: soccer, after all, is a family sport. Inter Miami CF looks like one big family. The stands are filled with fans of all ages. In the United States, one of the few countries in the world where soccer – or football, or fútbol – is not the most popular sport of all, MLS has decided to target the youngest fans.
“It all happened so quickly,” said the man the crowd calls Leo, who still wanted to be reassuring: “I want to win. We are gathered here to reap victories. »
It could start next Saturday.
Alain McKenna is in Fort Lauderdale at the invitation of MLS and Apple.