FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In a rare show of raw emotions, Messi head-butted AS Roma defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and barely missed the red card in an international friendly game at Camp Nou on Wednesday. The incident comes close on the heels of another bad publicity about Lionel Messi visiting the African State of Gabon for promoting the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. The Human Rights Foundation severely criticized Lionel Messi for meeting Gabonese dictator Ali Bongo, who is accused of murdering children as a ritual.
The friendly nature of Wednesday’s match between FC Barcelona and AS Roma was lost on four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. Neymar had scored a goal in the first half and Barcelona led 1-0, when Messi was involved in a nasty altercation with Roma defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The French international Mapou moved menacingly towards Messi with his head forward in anger. The normally cool Messi was enraged as well and he responded by also throwing his head at the tall-statured Mapou. Then Messi grabbed Mapou by his throat. The two were separated by Roma’s Brazilian defender Leandro Castan, who happened to be nearby. Under normal circumstances, both players should have been sent off but because of the friendly nature of the match, Spanish referee Javier Estrada Fernandez opted to show yellow cards to Messi and Mapou.
The match was part of Barcelona’s traditional pre-season Gamper Trophy to showcase their new arrivals and they had taken a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute, when a long diagonal ball from Messi was nicely picked up by Jeremy Mathieu. The French international delicately nudged the ball towards Neymar and the talented Brazilian had no trouble in beating Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. In the 34th minute, Lionel Messi and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were involved in the ugly incident, which overshadowed the beautiful game that Barcelona played throughout. But the media found more juice in Messi’s head butt. Seven minutes after the head-butt drama, Messi scored a beautiful goal. The move began with Luis Suarez. He dribbled in from the right flank and after getting past Vasilis Torosidis, fed the ball to Dani Alves, who found Neymar on the Tee. Neymar laid the ball to Messi and the little magician produced a vicious curling shot that shook the net. The teams went back for the halftime break with Barcelona leading 2-0 and when they came back, Ivan Rakitic made it 3-0 in the 65th minute with a mesmerizing 30-yard shot.
But Barcelona’s brilliant show was completely overtaken by the Messi-Mapou incident and Messi’s super performance became a by-line. Earlier, Messi was blasted by human rights charity for visiting Gabon in July to promote the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and allegedly taking 3.5 million Euros for the trip. Messi denied taking any payment but Human Rights Foundation still accused him for meeting Gabon’s dictator president Ali Bongo, who is regularly facilitating the murder of children as ritual. The HRF president Thor Halvorssen said that Messi had seriously undermined his own charitable foundation in providing PR services to Gabon’s Bongo family. Gabon is hosting 2017 Africa Cup of Nations at enormous expense although Bongo family’s embezzlement has left 20 per cent of the population to live on less than $2 per day. The HRF also alleged that Messi had put his prestige at the altar by providing services to a human rights abuser. For nearly 50 years, the Bongo family has exerted total control over Gabonese politics and society and the rich and famous indulge in cannibalism. Children are murdered as ritual in a sinful belief that by doing so the Bongo cult would gain further influence.