Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina hosts Lionel Messi's 'wedding of the century'

Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi and his wife Antonela Roccuzzo make an appearance for the press at their wedding in Rosario, Argentina, 30 June 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Messi first met his future bride when he was just five years old

Argentine football star Lionel Messi has married his childhood sweetheart in his hometown in what has been called the "wedding of the century".

A civil ceremony for Messi, 30, and Antonela Roccuzzo, 29, was held at a luxury hotel in the city of Rosario.

Football stars and celebrities were among the 260 guests, with hundreds of police deployed for the event.

Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona forward, met Roccuzzo as a child before he moved to Spain aged just 13.

Among the guests at Friday's wedding were Messi's Barcelona teammates Luis Suárez, Neymar, Gerard Piqué and his wife, Colombia's pop star Shakira. A number of guests flew into Rosario on private jets.

Argentina's Clarín newspaper has variously called the wedding "the wedding of the year" and "the wedding of the century".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many of Messi's former teammates, including Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fàbregas and Carles Puyol attended with their partners
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Argentine footballer Ezequiel Lavezzi was also spotted on the red carpet
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gerard Piqué (left) and his wife Shakira posed for a picture with airport staff as they arrived in Rosario
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Crowds gathered outside the hotel in Rosario

Earlier, crowds gathered at the local airport to try to spot some of the famous guests.

A private security firm was working inside the hotel to keep out potential gatecrashers.

About 150 journalists received accreditation to enter a special press area, but were not given full access to the venue, organisers said.

Where did the bride and groom meet?

Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Artist Lisandro Urteaga paints a celebratory mural of Messi on a wall in Rosario ahead of the wedding

Messi met Roccuzzo when he was just five years old. She is the cousin of his best friend, Lucas Scaglia, who also became a professional football player.

Messi accepted an offer to play for Barcelona when he was 13, on condition that they pay for treatment for his growth hormone deficiency.

He has spoken about the difficulties he faced on leaving behind his loved ones and former club.

Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Lionel Messi is joined on the pitch by Antonela Roccuzzo and the couple's two sons

The couple, who now live in Barcelona, have two sons together.

In May, his appeal against a 21-month jail term for tax evasion in Spain was rejected. He is unlikely to go to prison as the sentence can be served under probation or possibly avoided by paying a fine.

What do we know about the big day?

The event was held at Rosario's City Center hotel complex, which has an adjoining casino.

Image copyright CityCenter Rosario
Image caption Rosario's Hotel CityCenter set up for a previous event

Roccuzzo, 29, was widely expected to wear a dress by Rosa Clara, a Barcelona-based designer who has dressed actress Eva Longoria and Spain's Queen Letizia.

Aside from a "sushi station", the menu was a very Argentine affair, including empanadas (traditional pasties) and all parts of the cow, from a casserole of sweetbreads to blood sausage.

Who is on the guest list?

Messi invited the Barcelona squad, including Neymar, Luis Suárez and Gerard Piqué, who arrived in Rosario in a private jet with his wife, Colombian pop-star Shakira.

Teammates from Argentina's national team, including Sergio Agüero, were also present.

Clarín reported that Messi did not invite any of his recent coaches, including Pep Guardiola, who is now at Manchester City.

Argentina's other big football legend, Diego Maradona, was also omitted from the list, according to the local press.

Image copyright AFP / Getty Images
Image caption Uruguayan footballer Luis Suárez touches down in Rosario for his teammate's big day

Where is Rosario?

The port city of Rosario sits on the banks of the Paraná, about 300km north-west of Buenos Aires in the centre of the country.

Another famous Argentine to have spent his early years here is Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Messi is known locally simply as Lío.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A mural of Che Guevara next to the Newell's Old Boys club logo

He has been a local hero since his days as a star player for Newell's Old Boys.

The team has a staunch rivalry with nearby Rosario Central, similar to that of Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires.

Since moving to Spain, Messi has won a record-breaking five Fifa Ballon d'Or awards.

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