FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been criticised by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) for showing “enthusiastic support for the dictatorship” during his trip to Gabon last month.

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Lionel Messi had become the centre of controversy after France Football alleged that he received 3.5m Euros to lay the foundation stone at a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations stadium, the Port-Gentil stadium in Gabon, as a guest of President Ali Bongo.

The FC Barcelona superstar had categorically denied receiving payment for his visit to Gabon to lay the foundation stone at a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations venue.

According to Mundo Deportivo, Messi didna t receive any money for the visit, and agreed to it because of his friendship with former FC Barcelona teammate Samuel Etoa o, who is close with Gabon’s President Bongo.

Messi accepted the invite from Etoa o, and went to Gabon with another former teammate, Deco.

‘Human Rights Foundation criticizes Messi for the visit’

HRF president Thor Halvorssen said on his organisation’s website: “In providing PR services to Gabon’s Bongo family, Lionel Messi has seriously undermined the credibility of his own charitable foundation.”

“Whereas Messi claims to support children’s rights, and even serves as a UNICEF ambassador to promote youth education, he has endorsed a kleptocratic regime that refuses to investigate the ritual murder of children in Gabon.”

He added: “Messi’s trip is part of the Bongo family’s PR campaign to promote the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, which Gabon will host at enormous expense despite the fact that the Bongo family’s embezzlement has left 20 percent of the population to live on less than $2 per day.”

Keeping a promise

The 4-time Ballon Da Or winner had been given rest after completing his Copa America duty and hence the Argentine missed FC Barcelonaa s pre-season tour of the US.

But, the Argentina superstar traveled to Gabon to keep a promise he had made to the president as per the man himself:

a When I was in Barcelona a few years ago, I met Messi who had told me that he would come to visit me in Libreville,a President Bongo said.

a Ita s a promise he made me. He is a man of honour who just kept his word.a