SportsFC Cincinnati


'Part of our culture': Tri-State soccer fans flood TQL Stadium, local bars amid 'Messi Mania'

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Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 23, 2023

CINCINNATI — Messi Mania has taken over the Tri-State as FC Cincinnati faces Inter Miami.

“Got about five water bottles,” said Michael Daley, who set up in line outside TQL stadium at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Daley wanted to be first inside, hoping to catch a glimpse of star player Lionel Messi.

“My idol ever since I was a kid,” he said. “Grew up super short, so always idolized the short guy.”

Across the street, employees at The Pitch geared up early for big crowds.

“We'll probably have a line out the door tonight, whether it be at five o'clock and people get off work or later,” said Director of Marketing Andrew Maloney.

The bar across the street from TQL Stadium opened the same day the same stadium opened. Since then, it’s become a destination for fans of the sport.

Maloney planned to root on Cincinnati from inside the stadium.

“I have all the feels,” he said ahead of the match. “To quote Taylor Swift, ‘Screaming, crying,’ throwing up. I think it's everything you know. Big game.”

Josiah Bradley and his mom Caitlin Scarbury made the three-hour drive from Bloomville to catch the match.

“For me, he's an inspiration for soccer,” Bradley said of Messi.

RELATED | Facing Messi: What does it mean to FC Cincinnati players?

The match will be their first live soccer match in person.

“Just excited to see his reaction when we get there,” Scarbury said. “Being being at a live soccer match is going to be pretty, pretty memorable.”

For Lucas Nunez at The Empanada's Box in Covington, the match is more than just a game. Like Messi, he was born in Argentina. He even lived in Miami.

“For us from Argentina, this is like part of our culture,” he said.

Despite the close ties to the player, Nunez said he’s cheering for Cincinnati.

“Now that I've been here, FCC means everything to us,” said Nunez. “Because we feel like this is our home.”

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