Dinner, drinks, and a selfie with Lionel Messi sound like every football fan’s fantasy, but Chinese authorities have warned that it’s just one of many frauds surrounding his visit to Beijing.
The presence of the Argentine legend in China for a friendly against Australia in the capital on Thursday has attracted scammers and ticket scalpers eager to cash in on Messi mania.
Beijing police are warning people not to fall for a widely circulated advertising promising an evening with Messi for 300,000 yuan ($42,000).
“If you can be scammed out of 300,000 yuan, we’ll raise a glass to you,” Beijing’s normally austere public security office quipped on the Twitter-like Weibo.
Other dubious web offerings include “internal” stadium permits for 5,000 yuan and a “tailored VIP package” for almost 8,000 yuan that includes a signed jersey, front-row seats, and a photo with Messi.
Another unlawful advertisement states that for 50 million yuan, Messi will appear on your shopping livestream to espouse the benefits of your product.
Messi arrived in Beijing on Saturday and will lead the world champions against the Socceroos at the recently rebuilt 68,000-capacity Workers’ Stadium in Beijing.
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 take on Indonesia in Jakarta on June 19.