Messi calls Bryant "seriously great," gives him Argentina shirt

Other News Materials 13 August 2008 23:24 (UTC +04:00)

Argentine footballer Lionel Messi presented Kobe Bryant with his shirt on Wednesday, and called the US basketball superstar as "seriously great." ( dpa )

"He came to watch the game, he waved at me from the stands a real master. Kobe showed that he is seriously great," Messi said.

On Wednesday, Bryant watched defending champions Argentina beat Serbia 2-0 at the Beijing Olympics.

At half-time, Messi - who did not play in Wednesday's game - gave the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard his national team shirt, which Bryant received with a broad smile.

The two had already met Monday at the Olympic Village, and on Tuesday Bryant described Messi as his favourite footballer and "a phenomenon."

The NBA player spent several childhood years in Italy, and played football there. He has retained a great interest in the sport, and he is bound to have been disappointed at not seeing Messi's talent in the field.

Coach Sergio Batista chose to save Messi and other pillars of his team, which had qualified for the next round of the tournament ahead of the game against Serbia, and was only playing for the top spot in its group.

The Barcelona striker spoke of his absence, which disappointed many of the more than 60,000 spectators at the stadium. Some walked off before the end of the game, others booed the South Americans.

"That's the way things are. Sometimes you play, sometimes you don't. I hope I'll get to play in Beijing again, and I hope people support us like they did today," Messi said.

Argentina is set to play the Netherlands Saturday in Shanghai in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament. If Messi and his teammates win, they will return to Beijing to face the winner of Brazil-Cameroon in the semis.