French football giants Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, August 11, unveiled Lionel Messi from FC Barcelona on a two-year deal with an option for an extension until 2024.
A tearful Messi confirmed his departure from Barcelona during a press conference on Monday, August 8, after the Catalan club said it could no longer afford paying the Argentine’s high wages.
He now joins the Paris-based club which goes by the nickname, Les Parisiens, where he is expected to form a fearsome attacking trio alongside 2008 World Cup champion Kylian Mbappé and his former teammate and friend Neymar Jr.
The Argentine’s imminent move comes at a time when the club has a three-year partnership deal to promote the Visit Rwanda campaign. The PSG deal aims at promoting the visibility of Rwandan brands and tourism.
Sports enthusiasts and branding enthusiasts say that the club’s latest signing who enjoys a massive global following is a great addition to the ongoing efforts to promote the country as a tourist destination.
Enthusiasts say that Messi’s move to PSG will among other things increase the following of the club as he is arguably one of the most popular players globally.
Messi’s move was welcomed by millions of football fans across the globe, including Rwandans convinced that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner will boost the visibility of the country via the Visit Rwanda campaign in line with the club’s growing fan base since the Argentine’s move to Paris.
For instance, Messi’s move sparked a huge influx of new social media followers for PSG’s social media engagements whereby the club’s number of Instagram followers increased by over 4 million, from 38.7 million to the current 42.8 million in less than 24 hours.
As of March, Paris Saint-Germain had over 100 million fans on social media, a symbolic milestone that summed up the club’s exponential global popularity, making it one of the world’s most famous sports franchises.
The club’s fan base and interaction with fans across the world has been growing in recent months with the club engaging supporters across online platforms.
The club enjoys significant following globally with their largest fan base being in Brazil, China, Algeria, Mexico, the United States and Egypt, India and Indonesia.
PSG is expecting a surge in T-shirt sales globally as well as more visibility especially new fan base which will consequently boost Visit Rwanda campaign outreach.
Though its fan base is historically Parisian and French, Paris Saint-Germain now boasts supporters from all over the world, which can be grouped in more than 117 fan clubs in over 30 countries.
Matthew Rugamba, a designer and proprietor of House of Tayo is a football enthusiast who has been closely following Messi’s transfer to PSG until he signed.
He said that the shift of one of the world’s most popular football players to the French club is a big win for Rwanda given that his reputation will benefit the country’s ambitious target to boost its visibility worldwide.
“Three months ago, nobody believed that Messi would leave Barcelona. The fact that he’s going to play with Mbappe and Neymar upfront…I want to see what could happen. It’s something that everyone is trying to wrap their heads around. It’s so big. It will attract a lot more attention to the club,” he said.
Rugamba said that Messi wearing Visit Rwanda branded merchandise increases the country’s visibility adding that it shouldn’t end there as there are opportunities to make the most of visibility.
“I think the most important thing is the visibility. People need to be more aggressive, you can’t just sit back and say ‘okay, we can celebrate that Messi is wearing Visit Rwanda. There is more follow-up to work on because everyone needs to be a part of that push. Now that the opportunity has presented itself, it is up to us how we can leverage it,” he said.
“Yes, we are all excited that he wears the Visit Rwanda and we will also be excited to see the banners inside the Parc des Princes but the real work needs to start. It is important for all stakeholders and this goes beyond the government. We need to utilize this huge opportunity to the maximum,” he added.
Hassan Nsengiyumva, the owner of the sportswear shop Magasin Sports Class in Kigali, said that out of the public’s excitement is seen through the number of orders coming in as fans seek to get their hands on the jerseys.
Nsengiyumva told Sport Times that people are already ordering Messi’s shirts in PSG colors as the new season gets underway.
“Messi is a global superstar who has a huge fan base. Many are already ordering his new shirt at PSG and the demand is already growing at my shop since he signed for PSG because they are associating it with the partnership it has with Rwanda,” he said.