Rival fan throws punch at Messi in Argentina


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, June 3- A rival fan has thrown a punch at Lionel Messi as the Barcelona star was signing autographs and meeting with fans in his home town in Argentina, according to witnesses.

The star forward played down the incident, which took place in the town of Rosario some 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of Buenos Aires, telling local media he didn’t feel a thing and only found out about the punch later.

Witnesses said the assailant was among a group of young people who had gathered to get autographs and that he pulled a hood over his head and ran away after the attack.

Local residents said he was likely a fan of local club Rosario Central, the arch rivals of Newell’s Old Boys, a team Messi, 23, once played for.

Fresh from guiding Barcelona to Champions League glory, Messi — widely regarded as the best player in the world — now has his sights firmly set on winning the July 1-24 Copa America with Argentina in his home country.

He was instrumental in Barca’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final this year, scoring the second goal as the Catalan giants dominated the English champions at Wembley Stadium.

He will be looking to turn around Argentina’s terrible run in the Copa America, a tournament they have not won since 1993 in Ecuador.