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Meet the world's best footballer (so to talk) at the brand new Messi Experience in Miami

I'm standing in a reproduction television studio in front of an enormous wall of monitors, broadcasting mean things that Argentine fans have said about Lionel Messi, their national soccer captain and arguably the best player of all time.

“Messi, you once quit the Argentina national team,” a supporter said after the country was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup – Messi’s fourth unsuccessful appearance on the tournament. “It wouldn’t hurt to take into consideration doing it again.”

This is our hero's lowest moment, the emotional nadir of his life story arc, as seen in , a brand new “immersive” experience that opened in Miami last week. The nine-room walk-through spectacle is an AI, 3D and CGI tribute to Messi's life and profession in a hangar – actually called The Hangar – within the Coconut Grove district.

Perhaps it could herald the start of a brand new era of visitor attractions that don't depend on history, art or physical thrills (just like the museums, galleries and theme parks that dominate the sector) but as an alternative harness the appeal of living celebrities – the technology that allows each a sense of private intimacy in addition to the simultaneous holding of the exhibition in several cities around the globe.

Or perhaps it's only a head-scratching collection of too many video screens and computer graphics.

A simulation of Argentina's (shortened) open-top bus tour of Buenos Aires after winning the 2022 World Cup © Bruno Aïello-Destombes

It is the creation of two Miami showmen, Andres Naftali and David Rosenfeld, whose company Primo Entertainment has produced live shows for Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Recently it has expanded to incorporate digitally enhanced exhibitions, comparable to: B. (which can happen in at the very least seven cities within the US and UK this yr) and (which might already be seen in cities from New York to Sydney and can soon be rolled out across South America).

For Messi, they teamed up with Montreal-based Moment Factory, a multimedia entertainment company that also created exterior graphics for the large latest Sphere Arena in Las Vegas. When asked concerning the investment, Rosenfeld only said that the Messi show cost “many thousands and thousands of dollars”. It will soon open in Buenos Aires before moving to Los Angeles and, he hopes, one other 80 cities.

Rosenfeld says the team is “open to telling other people’s life stories in the long run.” I can't help but wonder who might work well – Michael Jordan, Elton John perhaps, surely a spectacular Taylor Swift? “But I don’t think there are a lot of football players as outstanding as Messi,” he adds. “I feel he connects with people in a totally different way.”

A pep talk from an AI Messi in a reproduction stadium locker room © Bruno Aïello-Destombes

To my surprise, having already been appeased by the show's immersive technology, I find myself touched by Messi's plight while listening to fans' criticism. I feel poor Leo just couldn't win. Then I remember: He won every part.

Half an hour earlier, I had entered the hangar, trading the blinding tropical light of South Florida for the blinding electronic radiance of the Experience. First, I had provided my email address and phone number and had a photograph taken of myself in order that a web based profile may very well be created that might allow me to interact with an AI-enabled Messi chatbot on my phone while I visited the show.

I used to be then led right into a corridor where the Argentine appeared as a hologram to greet me. It's clear that Lionel Messi and I’ll change into friends in the subsequent 75 minutes.

Answering the phone in an exhibition of Messi's childhood bedroom © Bruno Aïello-Destombes

Soon I'm in his nursery, answering an old-fashioned telephone when it rings. It's FC Barcelona, ​​​​he is known as up. His grandma is thrilled. While “The Hangar” matches the furnishings of the tv studio, the kids's room appears artificial and lacks the intimacy of the unique. Part of the issue is the dearth of authentic memorabilia. Despite being involved within the project, the famously private Messi didn’t hand over any personal items.

“At some point we can have some artifacts,” Rosenfeld says. “But since we’ve got different sets of kit going to different cities at the identical time, it needed to be as technological as possible.”

It's true that the show is significantly better if you let the technology run wild. In the subsequent room, I stare like a god at a model of Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona, ​​as scenes of Messi's rise to stardom are projected onto the pitch. And when it's interactive, it's the most effective. In one area, I’m guided by projected lights to seemingly learn to “dribble and shoot.” Or, if the group of girls in front of me weren't so expert, I’d embarrass myself and retreat.

Visitors practice shooting “identical to Messi” © Bruno Aïello-Destombes

The Experience was launched in town where Messi now plays, although he’s most related to Barcelona. He's with Inter Miami, the team that David Beckham – who bought the franchise in 2014 – hopes to capture the guts of a city that’s quickly becoming the de facto capital of Latin America. (The final of the Copa América, the South American club football championship, will happen here this yr.)

“There's at all times been a passion for soccer in Miami, but this can be a city of immigrants, so it's at all times home teams of their home countries,” says Michelle Kaufman, who writes about soccer for the Miami Herald. “But then Messi got here and brought his friends with him.” She means experienced superstars like Luis Suárez, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, who give the team the look of a footballing expendable.

A multimedia model of FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium © Bruno Aïello-Destombes
The stadium seen through a reproduction airplane window, a part of a sequence dramatizing the player's arrival in Barcelona © Bruno Aïello-Destombes

Now ground is being broken on a brand new $1 billion site next to Miami International Airport and, in line with Kaufman, “You see Inter Miami's pink jerseys all over the place. Men who would never have worn pink are wearing pink proudly.”

It looks like the experience must be refined. An AI-generated pep talk that Messi gives in a mock dressing room – “Come closer,” he says – is so weak that I'm starting to grasp why it took him so long to win a World Cup. If it's AI, it's less about Kubrick's HAL and more about “Messi” typed into ChatGPT.

What's really exciting, nonetheless, is a recreation of the open-top bus tour in Buenos Aires where Messi and his team celebrated their World Cup victory. I stand on the upper deck, surrounded by a 3D sea of ​​individuals with flags flying beneath them. It could also be stationary, nevertheless it doesn't feel prefer it. (The true story is that the group was so large that the players had to depart the bus to get off in helicopters.)

If I change into too cynical, the friend I arrived with scolds me. Issa could have change into knowledgeable athlete, but his parents convinced him to show down an athletic scholarship for tutorial study. I feel wistful when he says, “This show is a reminder of how sport can completely change an individual’s life.” Kids will like it.”

In the last room we’ve got our photo taken with the holographic Messi. He gives the thumbs up, now our buddy. Then we exit into the actual world and experience a gorgeous sunset over Miami, past boats drifting by within the bay.

It's the night of the grand opening, but while Latin celebrities walk around, there's no sign of Messi himself. According to Rosenfeld, the footballer is “a modest person, a family man, very reserved.” Well, I’ll at all times have his avatar.


The Messi Experience () runs through the tip of June at The Hangar, Coconut Grove, Miami; Adult tickets are $35.90, children are $29.90. Ruaridh Nicoll was a guest of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau () and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach ()


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