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Messi’s charity match in Chicago loses its luster

July 6, 2013

CHICAGO (AP) — Lionel Messi’s charity match at Chicago’s Soldier Field has lost some of its star-studded luster.

The “Messi and Friends” match, to be played Saturday night, was originally supposed to feature 36 international stars, including Messi’s Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas, Mexico midfielder Giovani dos Santos and Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored all four goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals.

But most of the big names have dropped out, and four former American collegiate players had to be added to the roster simply to be able to stage the game.

Former France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry is still scheduled to play, while Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, France midfielder Florent Malouda, and Messi’s Barcelona and Argentina teammate Javier Mascherano were late additions to the lineup.

About 25,000 tickets have been sold for the match, which is to benefit the Leo Messi Foundation for sick and at-risk children in Argentina.

“We’re definitely here not to disappoint anyone. We’ve tried to bring the best in the world. Unfortunately, lineups are subject to change,” said Ada Linares, the match’s project manager.

“We have tried to meet the rosters, and sometimes some of the players have personal agendas that they decide they want to do. ... If their team, at the end of the day says, ‘You’ve got to come back,’ we have nothing that we can do.”

Messi was to have had a second charity match Wednesday in Los Angeles, but it was canceled in a dispute with promoters.

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