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Why “Lionel Messi & Friends” charity soccer match in Los Angeles was canceled?

Why “Lionel Messi & Friends” charity soccer match in Los Angeles was canceled?

After months of planning, Wednesday’s charity soccer exhibition headlined by four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi at the LA Coliseum was canceled 27 hours before kickoff after representatives for the Argentine star became convinced the Southern California organizers would not be able to cover costs.

According to officials close to the event who were not authorized to speak publicly, money that was to pay for Messi’s appearance in Los Angeles was instead used to pay debts incurred by a similar Messi-headlined fundraising game in Medellin, Colombia, last week that drew just 12,000 fans.

The series of exhibitions, known as “Messi and Friends,” feature Messi and two rosters of top international players from around the world. Money raised by the tour is supposed to be funneled to children’s charities. In addition to Colombia, the tour stopped this week in Lima, Peru, and will continue on to Chicago on Saturday.

But, officials were told, it’s not coming to Los Angeles after Messi complained of receiving little more than travel money for the Colombia game from promoter Andres Barco. Fearing his foundation wouldn’t be paid by Barco in Los Angeles either, Messi announced Tuesday that he would not be coming to California.

“Disappointed by the management of the charity match in Los Angeles,” Messi said in a post on his Facebook page Wednesday. “I really wanted to be there and enjoy [it] as I did in Peru and Colombia. This project is made for the fans and that’s why I’m very disappointed with the organization.

“A big hug to those who were going to support this cause at L.A. Memorial Coliseum and thank you all for your support.”

Local sponsors made a last-ditch effort to save the L.A. event Tuesday, offering to purchase the contract for the game directly from Messi’s manager rather than deal with Barco. But that offer led to more questions when Ticketmaster data showed fewer than 20,000 tickets — at face values of $25 to $300 — had been sold, and more than 25,000 other tickets had been given out on consignment, meaning there was no guarantee Messi or the event organizers would recoup money from them. (Fans holding tickets are encouraged to seek refunds through Ticketmaster.)

Yani Camarena of TodoDias Entertainment was among those who tried to save the Coliseum match. He released a statement Wednesday in which he charged “the damage caused by Andres Barco was irreparable” and said Messi’s manager had accused Barco of breach of contract.

That left a different set of organizers in Chicago rushing to shore up their Messi event scheduled for Saturday at Soldier Field. READ FULL STORY by Kevin Baxter in Los Angeles Times

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