Over two thousand delirious football lovers gave sleep a miss as they danced, cried and shouted slogans eulogising football magician Lionel Messi, who arrived in Kolkata early on Wednesday amid stringent security for the first ever FIFA official international friendly in the Indian sub-continent featuring Argentina and Venezuela.
A large number of people, who were waiting for hours at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport to welcome the Argentine superstar, were left heartbroken as the organisers packed him into a vehicle from the tarmac and drove him out of the airport through a sidegate.
Messi was accompanied by his Barcelona FC teammate Javier Mascherano. The duo reached the eastern Indian metropolis after playing the club's La Liga game with Villareal on Monday.
Soccer lovers, who had defied a drizzle to assemble in large numbers to welcome their hero in the wee hours, failed to get a glimpse of the Argentine genius, who was driven straight to the team hotel near the stadium.
Many sported the sky blue and white jerseys of the Argentine team, and carried flags of the Latin American side. Wild cheers of "Messi, Messi" were heard constantly.
Some of the soccer fans also had their faces painted in the colours of the Argentine or the Barcelona jerseys with Messi written on their bare chests.
However, the turnout of the soccer buffs to greet Messi fell far short of the 50,000 odd crowd which had gathered in 2008 to welcome football legend Diego Maradona who had come on a two-day trip to the city to attend a host of programmes.