Miami fans restore Messi mural vandalized by rivals

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Chris Moramarco got the call Wednesday morning.

The Lionel Messi-themed mural located in the Wynwood area of Miami and painted a month ago by members of the Inter Miami supporters group Vice City 1896 that he helped establish in 2018, had been vandalized. Big swaths of purple paint — the main color of Miami’s rivals Orlando City — had been thrown across the piece of art, and the words “FL is Purple” were written on it, too.

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By Thursday morning, however, the mural was looking as close to new as possible thanks to dozens of Vice City 1896 members who answered Moramarco’s call to help restore the mural. Final touch-ups will be made over the next day or two.

“I put a message in our group chat asking people to come out and help, but I couldn’t believe how many showed up,” said Moramarco, who runs a boutique creative advertising agency and created merchandise for the MLS team’s first two seasons. “Murals are community-driven and help bring together the sort of solidarity we saw last night. I’m proud of our collective work. We had all ages, it really showed me how much people care. All ([the vandals] did was bring us closer together.”

The mural, which was completed by more than 80 people painting on a rotating basis over eight evenings, was designed by Moramarco, finished on Messi’s birthday — June 24 — and was funded completely by the group’s fundraising.

When Moramarco, 45, saw the results of the vandalism via social media posts, he had an interesting response.

“I kind of laughed, but I was also in shock,” he said. “Someone had to travel all the way down here, had the time to think it through and paint it. The fact someone was that bothered, means we’re doing something right.”

Doing something right isn’t a strange sight for Vice City 1896 — one of five supporters’ groups affiliated with Inter Miami — as Moramarco is proud to list the ways they’ve given back to the community via initiatives such as toy drives, feeding the homeless, beach cleanups and more. And while the 500-plus members of Vice City 1896 might refer to themselves as the “hardcore” supporters of Inter Miami, the response to this vandalism or anything else will never be violent.

“In the end, this is just a sports rivalry that is alive, and we’re going to keep bringing it in a unique way,” said Moramarco, who revealed the group might have a secret artistic response of its own to the vandalism. “[Orlando] consider us fake fans, make fun of our stadium.

“But we know where we’re headed with Messi. His arrival has had a negative effect on them and set the tone to come.”

That tone might be on display quickly next Wednesday, Aug. 2, when the two teams could meet in the knockout stage of the Leagues Cup in Miami.



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