From Newell’s to Nanjing: Messi theme park unveiled

Although Paul Pogba made headlines when he became the first football player to have his own emoji, it seems that Lionel Messi is about to go a step further in the engagement of football fans away from the football pitch. The Barcelona superstar was in China over the weekend to help unveil plans that will commence the construction of a Messi inspired theme park in Nanjing, eastern China.

Set to open its (Ballon) doors in 2019, the Messi Experience Park is designed to “immerse visitors in Messi’s experience” by using virtual and augmented reality technology to recreate the Argentinian forward’s life with as much accuracy as possible. Most importantly, to Messi, it will offer its young visitors an unprecedented experience and encourage them to pick up the sport of football at an early age.

There are to be a total of 20 attractions across a site of 80,000 square metres, and although no further details of the attractions themselves have been released, it isn’t hard to imagine what they may have to offer. Perhaps one of those on-rails ghost houses where you shoot cardboard cut-outs of Cristiano Ronaldo and battle amongst your friends to get the highest score. Or the ‘Real-Life Dodgems’, a nerve-wracking ride meant to be the next evolutionary step in tax avoidance simulation technology.

The Messi Experience Park is just further evidence of how our sports stars are becoming increasingly important to culture outside the realms of the pitch. Perhaps it won’t be long until we’re shopping in Ronaldo endorsed supermarkets, driving the new BMW Neymar, or studying dropkicks and head butts at the Zidane/Cantona school of martial arts.

There are no words on how expensive the theme park’s tickets will be, but it’s hoped that they will be relatively well-priced and come with the added option of having a football super-glued to your foot all day long for the full Lionel Messi experience.

Robert Cairns

Image credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

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