Dinner, drinks and a selfie with Lionel Messi sounds like every football fan’s dream, but Chinese police have warned it’s just one of numerous scams surrounding his visit to Beijing.
The Argentine legend’s presence in China for a friendly against Australia in the capital on Thursday has drawn scammers and ticket scalpers desperate to capitalise on the Messi mania.
Beijing police are warning against falling for one widely circulated advertisement that promises an evening in Messi’s company for 300,000 yuan ($42,000).
“If you can be scammed of 300,000 yuan, we’ll raise a glass to you,” the usually austere Beijing public security bureau joked on the Twitter-like Weibo.
Other dubious offers posted online include “internal” stadium passes for 5,000 yuan and a “tailored VIP package” including an autographed jersey, front-row seats and a photo with Messi for over 8,000 yuan.
For 50 million yuan, Messi will appear on your shopping livestream to extol the virtues of your product, another unauthorised advertisement claims.
Messi landed in Beijing on Saturday and will lead the world champions against the Socceroos at Beijing’s newly renovated 68,000-capacity Workers’ Stadium.
It is a rematch of the round-of-16 clash at last winter’s World Cup, where Argentina won 2-1 and went on to lift the trophy.
Chinese fans have been desperate to get close to their hero Messi, with tickets for the game ranging from 580 to 4,800 yuan quickly selling out.
Dozens of merchants on the Taobao online shopping platform are offering to resell tickets for as much as 18,000 yuan, despite anti-scalping measures including an ID requirement for entering the stadium.
Hundreds of people waited outside the Argentina team hotel in central Beijing on Saturday, with one fan telling AFP they had booked a room in hopes of catching a glimpse of Messi after failing to secure match tickets.
The 35-year-old Messi, who is set to join Inter Miami after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, will also play another friendly match when Argentina takes on Indonesia in Jakarta on June 19.