Are you watching, Messi? Ronaldinho’s legends game in Florida ends in pitch invasion chaos

If Lionel Messi is wondering what attention his imminent arrival at Inter Miami CF in MLS will attract from Florida fans, events in Orlando on Friday will give him some idea.

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Ronaldinho’s star-studded charity match in Florida ended amid chaotic scenes as a weather-induced early end to the game sparked a mass pitch invasion from fans in the crowd.

The 43-year-old Brazil legend welcomed a plethora of footballing faces and celebrity all-stars to take part in “The Beautiful Game” at the Exploria Stadium, with Team Ronaldinho (R10) squaring off against Team Roberto Carlos (RC3) at the home of MLS side Orlando City.

The two captains were joined by ex-international teammates such as Cafu and Rivaldo, as well as other former stars including Juan Veron, Javier Mascherano and Patrick Kluivert and current pros such as Vinicius Junior, Eder Militao, Paulo Dybala and Joao Felix — with a smattering of famous musicians, influencers and social media personalities thrown in for good measure.

Given the impressive depth of the rosters, it’s perhaps amazing that there was still room for a headline act, but top of the bill was definitely the appearance of Ronaldo Nazario — the original R9 — on the bench for Team R10.

The inaugural edition of “The Beautiful Game” was staged last summer in Miami when Team RC3 narrowly edged out Team R10 in a wildly enthralling 22-goal thriller.

Indeed, it looked like fans were set to witness another absurdly high scoreline when Cafu hit the crossbar with just minutes played before Jay-Jay Okocha opened the scoring for Team R10, bamboozling the defence with some trademark footwork before poking a finish past Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita.

After an equaliser for Team RC3 from the evergreen Rivaldo, goals started to fly in for both sides as Kluivert, Vinicius (twice), Cafu and Lucas Moura all found the net to send Team R10 in at the break with a 4-2 lead. The pick of the bunch may well have been Vinicius’ casually impudent lob over the goalkeeper from close range.

Real Madrid star Vinicius then swapped teams at half-time and continued to dazzle the crowd as he opened up his box of tricks.

However, the hour mark brought with it a tropical downpour, and as the heavy rain slowed the momentum, the feverish atmosphere took a turn as a procession of young fans began to interrupt the game by running onto the pitch in search of a selfie with one or more of their footballing idols.

Ronaldinho’s substitution in the 58th minute sparked a fresh wave of encroachment from the stands. As dozens of supporters continued to breach the perimeter of the playing area and flock around the players, the security team decided to postpone the match because of “adverse weather conditions” as the players and officials were hurriedly ushered from the pitch. Roughly 15 minutes later, the game was abandoned entirely.

Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas spoke earlier this week about the club’s preparations for Messi’s arrival, which include work on increasing the capacity of their stadium to 22,000 by adding approximately 3,000 seats.

Security for players will be enhanced both for home and away games involving Messi, the first of which is scheduled to be on July 21 in a Leagues Cup match against Liga MX‘s Cruz Azul.

With Messi no stranger to fans running onto the field brandishing their phones in the hope of a picture with him, security at whichever matches he plays will be kept on their toes.

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