ATLANTA — Soccer fans who spent hundreds of dollars to see Lionel Messi play in Atlanta say they felt let down Saturday.
Messi didn't join Inter Miami to face Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And fans tailgating were in good spirits but wanted to know why.
This game would have been Messi's first, major league soccer match on a turf field since signing with Miami.
Jordan Shivers brought his kids, Jacob and Madison, out to the game.
"We love Atlanta United, but we're definitely a little bummed out to not see Messi play," Jordan said.
Alberto Del Toro still showed up with his Messi jersey on.
"We wanted to watch him here," Del Toro said, "And we were a little disappointed he wasn't coming, but it's OK."
Ro Markevitch was feeling indifferent.
"It's a bit disrespectful, in my opinion, because fans come out to see him," Markevitch said, "These little kids want to see him."
Jacob was one of those kids.
"He's the best soccer player in the world," Jacob said.
Many fans wondered why Messi skipped out.
"My assumption is the turf," Jordan said, "I think it's bad on your legs and knees and was hoping they were going to bring in grass to the game so that would put that rumor to bed."
Del Toro defends Messi.
"It's a lot of games," Del Toro said, "He was in Argentina. I'm sure it's a lot of traveling. I'm sure he's tired. Maybe the weather had something to do with it. Probably more beautiful in Miami anyways."
Inter Miami's Coach, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, says Messi didn't play due to "muscle fatigue."
Jordan has season passes, but Del Toro says he and his wife spent $200 per ticket. The game was sold out. After word started traveling that Messi wasn't coming, Stub Hub showed resale tickets as low as $45 ahead of the game.
Markevitch was looking at the bright side. Messi's absence mixed with Markevitch's good luck possibly gave Atlanta United an advantage. She claims United has won every time she's attended a game.
"I'm super pumped," Markevitch said ahead of the game, "Messi's not going to be here. We're just going to demolish them."
Jordan was looking for ways to make it up to the kids.
"I'm definitely less excited about Messi not playing," Jacob said.
Del Toro has chosen to forgive one of his favorite players and gives Messi an open invitation for next time, in the event the soccer superstar should ever need a place to stay.
"I'm still team Messi," Del Toro said, "I still love him. He can come to my house when he's done."
Atlanta United went on to beat Miami, 5-2. The Team posted on X, formally known as Twitter, "Tell 'em to bring the whole squad next time."