La Paz: Bolivian defender Ronald Raldes is enjoying virtual hero status in his Andean homeland after going toe to toe with Lionel Messi in his team's Copa America draw with Argentina. (Also Read: Bolivia out to prove Argentine draw no fluke)
The hosts had expected to get off to a winning start but the 102nd-ranked Bolivians held them 1-1 and at one stage a frustrated Messi went head to head with Raldes, who plays in Argentina for Colon while he started out with the oddly-named Destroyers in his homeland.
Bolivian fans have flocked to social media sites such as Facebook and myriad blogs to praise Raldes and his set-to with Messi has also made him a star turn on Youtube, which shows the pair gesturing aggressively at each other after tangling at La Plata.
One Raldes fan put up a picture of the pair's encounter and added a phrase which imagined Raldes' riposte to Messi, who was unhappy at one meaty challenge which prompted some mutual pushing and shoving.
"Messi, I am from Bolivia and you must respect me," was how the fan imagined the exchange.
Some blogs showed Raldes as an insecticide under the legend "New Raldes kills fleas," in allusion to Messi's nickname of La Pulga, the flea.
Chilean media also got in on the act with La Cuarta daily suggesting that "Bolivian defender Ronald Raldesis more popular than (President) Evo Morales," who attended the game as a big football fan.