Lionel Messi is one of the most beloved athletes ever. But you know the story. The one who has many friends has by default many foes. That saying proved true once again, as two gunmen fired at least a dozen shots at a supermarket belonging to his wife’s family, before leaving a threatening message, aimed at the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.
It was late in the evening of the 2nd of March in Rosario, Messi’s hometown. Two gunmen on motorcycles fired at least 12 shots at a supermarket belonging to the family of Antonella Roccuzzo, Lionel Messi’s wife. Santa Fe police arrived within minutes to find a hand-written message reading “Messi, we are waiting for you, Javkin is a narco, he’s not going to protect you.”
Pablo Javkin is Rosario’s mayor and the term “narco” (as known by anyone who has watched the popular Netflix series) is slang for a drug trafficker.
What police are focusing on is the “narco” part of the note. Accusing the mayor of also being a narco, suggests that the attack was organised by Argentina’s narco mafia. Why Messi and his in-laws’ business was at the receiving end of it is yet unclear.
Messi is considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time or at least someone who is in the discussion. The Paris Saint-Germain star is particularly loved in Argentina and especially in his hometown of Rosario, Santa Fe. That love is at its peak, as the 35-year-old led Argentina to a World Cup victory two months ago, the first for the country in 36 years. Once again he is the favourite to win the 2023 Ballon d’Or.
Santa Fe’s Public Prosecutor Federico Rebola said that the police are currently reviewing security camera footage, as part of the preliminary investigation. He added that to his knowledge Messi and his broader family have never received any similar threats in the past.
One of the most interesting statements came from Celia Arena, Minister of Justice in Santa Fe’s provincial government. In a social media post, she expressed her belief that the real target was not Messi himself, but it was a cold mafia terrorism attack “aimed to deliberately cause fear in the general population and discourage those who are fighting against organised crime.” She added that by attacking Messi, they knew their message would get global exposure.
Except for Messi, the other name mentioned in the note was Pablo Javkin. The centre-left mayor of Rosario is a vocal opponent of the central government, led by a Peronist coalition. Javkin said he doubts everyone “even those who have sworn to protect us.”
He added that he recently had “a heated discussion” with members of the federal police, demanding bigger efforts towards solving the city’s crime problems.
As any aspiring footballer, Messi idolised Diego Armando Maradona growing up. Despite being one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game, Diego had his fair share of scandals and his alleged ties with the mafia did not go unnoticed. Reports that linked him to the Calabrian N’drangheta surfaced in 2008 and were highlighted in documentary films such as The Two Sides of a Legend. According to the reports, Maradona was involved with drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
Although Diego was never officially charged or convicted of any offences, he was always under suspicion. He was even questioned by police in 2008 and the investigation into him deepened after his arrest in 2011 on drug charges, although he was cleared of those allegations.
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