Chicago – While its star-studded lineup has lost some of its luster, Lionel Messi's charity game at Soldier Field will go on.
The "Messi and Friends" charity game will be played Saturday night, three days after the four-time Ballon D'Or winner was to have played a similar all-star match in Los Angeles. That game was canceled Tuesday night in a dispute with promoters. The Chicago game is put on by a different organization, Miami-based Numero 5.
"We're here to meet our part of the bargain. That's why our game was not canceled," Ada Linares, the event's project manager, said, adding there was "never" a thought of not playing Saturday night's game.
But the lineup won't be nearly as impressive as what fans were originally promised when tickets — some as high as $2,500 — went on sale.
The match was supposed to feature 36 international stars, including Messi's Barcelona teammate Cesc Fàbregas; Chelsea defender David Luiz; Mexico's Giovani dos Santos; and 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 Northwestern players had to be added to the roster simply to be able to stage the game.
Thierry Henry is still scheduled to play, and Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Barcelona's Javier Mascherano and France's Florent Malouda were late adds to the lineup.
"We're definitely here not to disappoint anyone. We've tried to bring the best in the world. Unfortunately, lineups are subject to change," Linares said. "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."
About 25,000 tickets have been sold for the event, which is to benefit the Leo Messi Foundation for sick and at-risk children in his native Argentina.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.