Soccer wasn't always Lionel Messi's favorite activity.
When he was a child in the modest neighborhood of La Bajada in his Argentine hometown of Rosario, he spent his time bicycling with friends, building forts out of branches and stones, playing hide and seek — and occasionally stealing lemons from a neighbor to make juice.
Those stories and others are the focus of a new tour being offered by Rosario to celebrate their 32-year-old hometown hero, an international sports superstar who just won an unprecedented sixth Golden Ball as world soccer's player of the year.
The tour put together by Rosario's city hall is free of charge and available in an app translated into several languages, guiding fans through 10 stops.
Few houses are higher than two stories in La Bajada, a middle-class neighborhood in the city that is 186 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.
Halfway down Israel street stands a gray house, closed off by shut curtains and protected by railings. There is no sign outside indicating it was Messi's home, and no one lives there now, though it still belongs to his family.
The neighbors aren't so shy about the Messi connection, however. Colorful paintings dedicated to the soccer star stand in front of houses and there are sidewalks colored in the blue and white of Argentina's national team with Messi's jersey number, 10, painted in black.
Messi's neighbors and friends are often willing to share stories with visitors.
"Leo was normal and ordinary like other people here," Diego Vallejos, one of Messi's childhood friends, told The Associated Press on a sandy soccer field of the El Campito club as three youngsters played soccer.
"We fell, we scratched ourselves riding bikes. We went to the street with water bombs and threw them at buses," said Vallejos, who is one year older than Messi.
Also are on the tour are the school Messi attended and the Abanderado Grandoli club, where he learned his first soccer moves.
The city long had a somewhat distant relationship with Messi, and officials say the tour seeks to change that. Rosario's city hall said Messi's family did not take part in the creation of the tour.
"What we want to emphasize is that Leo is a product of his city, and that there is a life and many stories behind the superstar," said Santiago Valenti with Rosario's tourism agency.
Messi was born June 24, 1987, in the Hospital Italiano Garibaldi in Rosario. He lived in the city until 2000, when he moved to Barcelona.
A recently opened sports museum, a few blocks from Messi's old house, offers an interactive tour of the lives of local stars in racing, boxing, basketball and soccer.
Messi's section of the museum is introduced by a painting that mixes monuments from Rosario and Barcelona, and the sentence: "All that I did, I did for soccer." Two giant screens display goals and testimonials from his teammates.
"The idea is not to pay a tribute to his sporting success," said museum coordinator Juan Echeverría. "It is to value the path he walked, everything that an athlete has to go through to get to the tip of the iceberg that we see when he is on the podium."
The museum has contacted Messi's family and the player's father said he would donate more memorabilia.
One of items on display is a small red shirt with a white collar. Below it is Messi's official register as a Newell's Old Boys academy player and a picture of him smiling.
Downtown is the Malvinas compound where Newell's has its soccer academy. It was there the young Messi was filmed out-dribbling much bigger opponents.
"This is where it all started," said Lisandro Conte, an employee at the academy.
Messi did not play for Newell's. "At that time there were players who looked more promising, and the bet was placed on them," Conte said.
Still, Messi has said he wants to finish his career at Newell's, playing for his hometown club in his own country after a professional career in Barcelona's storied Spanish league team.
Fans visiting Rosario might even be able to catch a match between teams like the recent clash between Newell's and arch-rival Rosario Central. Among the 14 youngsters chasing the ball might be Rosario's next star.
US Open champion Bianca Andreescu became the first tennis player to win Canada's athlete of the year award on Monday.
The title is awarded each year to Canada's top athlete, and Andreescu, 19, put together a strong case throughout her revelatory 2019 season, during which she won her first WTA title at the BNP Paribas Open - a Premier Mandatory tournament - and her second at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, a Premier 5 event that Andreescu grew up attending.
The youngster later became the first from her country to win a Grand Slam singles title in the US Open, where she upset 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the final.
Andreescu was nominated alongside compatriots Brooke Henderson (golf), Jordan Binnington (ice hockey), Andre De Grasse (sprinter) and Mike Soroka (baseball).
The jersey of Chattogram Challengers cricket team for upcoming Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BBPL) T20 Cricket was unveiled at a city hotel on Monday.
Ctg Challengers unveiled two sets of jerseys for BPL, one is purple and black for the away matches and the other is blue for home matches.
KM Rifatuzzaman, the owner and managing director of Chattogram Challengers, officially unveiled the jerseys on Monday.
Vice-President of Challengers Sajnin Khan, BCB Director cum Challengers Team Director Jalal Yunus, ACME Director and team sponsor Fahim Sinha, and team captain Mahmudullah were also present on the occasion.
The Bangabandhu BPL will kick off on Wednesday (December 11) with Chattogram Challengers taking on Sylhet Thunders in opener at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur.
The season of BPL is rebranded as Bangabandhu BPL to pay tribute to the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Former English cricketer Owais Shah believes Rajshahi Royals can do well in the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) starting from December 11, if their all-rounders come up with expected efforts.
The 41-year-old former cricketer is all set to coach the Royals in BPL which will be his first coaching stint in Bangladesh. Shah is confident to go all the way in the most prestigious domestic cricket event in Bangladesh.
“I am satisfied with the squad I have. We are confident to go all the way in the event. If our all-rounders come up with their best efforts, we can expect a good result because the all-rounders are key in T20 cricket,” Shah told the media during their first practice session on Monday at the Academy ground in Mirpur.
“We got two explosive batsmen at the top of the order in the forms of Liton Das and Hazratullah Zazai. At the same time, we have got Ravi Bopara and Andre Russell in our armoury as well. I think we got a balanced side. Now, let’s see how we can come together in the next two-three days,” he added.
Shah believes the wickets of BPL will be more friendly to the batsmen, and he is expecting an event dominated by the batsmen. At the same time, the former Englishman hopes the local players should come up to bring good results for all of the teams participating in BPL.
A total of seven teams will be fighting for the title of BPL. Apart from the Royals, the other teams are- Dhaka Platoon, Comilla Warriors, Chattogram Challengers, Khulna Tigers, Rangpur Rangers and Sylhet Thunder.
A total of 46 matches will be played at three different venues in Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet. Along with the final, all four matches of the playoff rounds will be played in Dhaka.
Star studded Bangladesh Navy earned an emphatic 5-0 goals victory over Bangladesh Police in the Walton Refrigerator Victory Day Hockey Tournament at the Maulana Bhasaani National Hockey Stadium here on Monday.
Roman Sarker struck two field goals in the 14th and 23rd minutes, Deen Islam also scored two field goals in the 40th and 47th minutes while Krishna Kumar made another field goal in the 32nd minute for sailors team.
In the day’s other match, Sonali Bank beat Bangladesh Army by 4-3 goals at the same venue.
Mahbub and Mehedi contributed two goals each for the bankers’ team while Mamun Miah, Ahsan Habib and Hasan Jubair Niloy scored one each for the Army.
Tuesday’s matches : BKSP vs Police ( 1 pm), and Sonali Bank vs Air Force (3 pm).