06/18/2023 6:01 a.m.
Updated to 06/16/2023 6:24 p.m.
It used to be an abandoned vacant lot, filled with dirt, rubble, and weeds. At one point, it even became a hiding place for criminals seeking to surprise unsuspecting passersby in its darkness. However, long before that, it served as a refuge for Leo Messi and his friends. They decided to clean it up to avoid the increasing incidents of robbery in the area, and eventually, they formed a club…
El Campito: Messi’s First Paddock
Officially known as the Civil Sports and Cultural Association El Campito, this property gained its name in 2018 when the organization was established. But the story actually began about a decade earlier. “It was an open-air dump, and there were many robberies happening. We decided to take action,” say the leaders of this initiative.
Lionel Messi – 6-18-2023
El Campito: Messi’s First Paddock
Walter, Diego, and Mara are the main leaders behind the creation of a small field for the local kids to gather, as well as organizing painting workshops, music events, and various other activities to bring the community together. They are the same individuals who, as children, built huts among the trees in the same place where they now spend time with little Lionel, the same Lionel who lifted the World Cup in Qatar six months ago.
The campito is located in Juan Manuel de Rosas, between La Bajada and Lavalleja. It is in the South Zone of Rosario, specifically in an area called La Bajada, which is part of the General Las Heras neighborhood. Interestingly, it is also the neighborhood where Messi grew up.
The trio, along with other members of their lifelong group of friends and neighbors, took charge of cleaning and renovating the area. They obtained permission from the authorities to manage the place and proceeded to create a small field, install water connections, build bathrooms, and continue expanding their efforts…
However, they wanted to add color to the place. So, a few years ago, they organized the first meeting of muralists in Rosario. It was a tremendous success, with over 30 artists from different parts of Argentina and the world leaving their artistic mark not only on Campito but also on various walls within a ten-block radius. Initially, there were 32 murals in the area, but with Messi’s recent triumphs in the Copa América and the World Cup, several more have been added.
“While many murals are dedicated to Leo and themes of perseverance, there are also several addressing social issues such as animal abuse, public health, and child labor,” says Diego. The boys don’t just talk about football. One of their annual traditions is the famous Noche de Terror, a Halloween festival where costumes, music, and good vibes abound.
They are even working towards obtaining authorization for the nearby Juan Mantovani secondary school to use the property for physical education classes since the school lacks proper sports facilities for the children.
Although Leo is aware of the significant project his friends are undertaking in a place that played a crucial role in his life, they want to keep him separate from it. “We are not doing this for any personal gain; it is a genuine endeavor that we enjoy, and we don’t expect anything in return,” says Diego, who has been present at the recent events organized by the Argentine star during his visits to Rosario.
While they have clear objectives to improve the lives of their neighbors, they also believe in working with the younger generation to create a different future with a new culture and learning. Their goal is as great as Messi’s winning goal against France.
Leo Messi’s First Club
In the early ’90s, Leo Messi began playing for Abanderado Grandoli. This neighborhood club, located close to the Messi family’s residence, is where the captain of La Scaloneta took his first steps in soccer and is still remembered today.
Leo’s brothers, Rodrigo and Matías, also played at the club, so he was involved from a very young age. He even started competing with older kids a year earlier, before his own age category entered the regular competition grid.
Currently, the club proudly displays several photos of Leo as a child and has dedicated flags in his honor, which they proudly wave whenever they take the field in their orange shirts.