Argentinian football player Lionel Messi took to Alibaba Group’s Taobao Live platform on Wednesday in Beijing, meeting digitally with fans ahead of a match against Australia later this week.
Taobao Live provides 24/7 interactive livestreaming for merchants and influencers to market products and communicate with audiences.
The show was a rare opportunity for millions of Chinese people to interact with the 35-year-old sports superstar after some in-person activities were canceled over security issues.
“Chinese people are very enthusiastic; the entire Argentine team feels it. During training, many people watch over us,” Messi told viewers in Spanish, which was translated into Mandarin by an interpreter.
He reflected on his past six visits to the country, and when asked about plans to represent Argentina in the 2026 FIFA World Cup, he noted that was “still many years away.”
The livestream was hosted by Chinese influencer Li Xuanzhuo and no products were sold during the stream, though searches for Messi-related t-shirts and shoes, South American caffeinated herbal drink yerba mate and other items topped Taobao’s most-searched rankings.
Toward the end of the session, Li presented Messi with special wine, a traditional red herb sachet and triangular rice dumplings usually consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival marked across China on June 22.
A solid stream of heart emojis sent by users continued long after the football player exited the stage.
China is home to a growing number of football fans.
During last year’s men’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Alibaba’s travel platform Fliggy debuted a package for overseas Chinese consumers, including match tickets and accommodation.
Lucky enthusiasts will be able to see Messi on June 15 in Beijing when he captains the Argentinian national team in a friendly match against Australia.
Taobao Live is accessible via the consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform Taobao, which recently celebrated its 20th birthday.
Going forward, it is looking to boost livestreaming, which has become one of the fastest-growing sale formats for digital retail sites.
“Our livestreaming and content teams will provide strong support to content creators,” Taobao & Tmall Group Director and CEO Trudy Dai said during a quarterly earnings call in May.
This article was updated to add detail to paragraph seven
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