Fans of Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi are urging him to rethink his shock retirement from international football.

The Barcelona striker announced that he was stepping down from international duty after Sunday's defeat in the Copa America final to Chile.

The loss after a penalty shoot-out was the fourth time Messi had reached the final of a major tournament for Argentina without winning.

Images of Messi crying with teammates were hard enough to take for some fans, but the news of his retirement has hit many of the country's poorest hardest.

In the slums of Buenos Aires, Al Jazeera spoke to children who were inspired by his rags-to-riches story and were upset by the thought of a national team without their idol.

"I am worried because Lionel Messi said he was leaving the Argentinean national team ... please Messi don’t leave you are the best thing we have," a young boy named Alexis said during a break from playing a football game in the capital's 31 slum.

God's gift

Messi's decision has prompted attempts by TV stations to get him to stay and even a plea from President Mauricion Macri, who called him "God's gift".

Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo, reporting from Buenos Aires, said some of the star's critics had changed their tune after his announcement.

"Even though Lionel Messi is an international football star, he was widely criticised in Argentina because he never won a major cup wearing the national colours," she said.

"Football is felt very deeply in Argentina and many claimed that Messi was not passionate enough for the team. But since he announced he was leaving things have changed … Now there are pictures of Messi everywhere."

Argentina urges Messi to rethink international retirement

Source: Al Jazeera