Football and showbiz stars gather in northern Argentina on Friday for Latin America’s celebrity wedding bash of the decade when Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi marries his childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo.
Pop star Shakira and her husband, Messi’s teammate Gerard Pique, are expected among the 260 guests, according to media and locals close to the event.
They will join old friends of the couple and footballers such as his Barcelona strike partners Luis Suarez and Neymar.
The party at a casino in his hometown Rosario will be a respite for the player from his legal woes. A Spanish court last month rejected his appeal against a conviction for tax fraud.
Brunette bride Roccuzzo, 29, will wear a dress by Spanish designer Rosa Clara, which has been flown over from Barcelona.
The designer has dressed stars such as actresses Eva Longoria and Sofia Vergara as well as Spain’s Queen Letizia.
Guests will pack into the Hotel City-Center Casino, which stands right next to a crime-ridden slum run by drug gangs.
“Messi’s wedding accentuates the sense of inequality that is symbolised by the casino in that neighborhood,” said Carlos del Frade, author of several books on the drug trade in Rosario.
This city of 1.2 million people is also a cradle of footballing talent, however.
“Rosario lives and breathes football. That is another reason Lionel feels so comfortable here,” the city’s mayor, Monica Fein, told AFP.
“I think he is excited that through his wedding his friends (from abroad) will be able to get to know the city he loves so much.”
Some 155 journalists have been accredited to cover the bash, but have been warned they will have no access to the guests.
Security will be handled by a private team of Israeli specialists used by Messi for all his excursions.