A Daily Mail story
Lionel Messi’s bodyguard who leapt into action to protect the soccer star during Sunday’s match is widely reported to be an ex-Navy SEAL – but veterans of the elite unit say they’ve never heard of him.
Yassine Chueko shot to fame when videos went viral of him last month vigilantly pacing the sidelines of soccer matches, pushing away an intruder on the field and pulling fans’ hands off Messi when they took selfies with the Inter Miami star.
And he further proved his dedication to the athlete during Sunday’s match when a fan ran on the field in a Barcelona jersey and tried to hug Messi. Chueko quickly grabbed the fan by the neck and ripped him off in front of the entire Los Angeles stadium.
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Sports websites including Barstool Sports and publications including La Nacion and the New York Post reported that Chueko, a large and muscular mixed martial arts professional, was a former US Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But current and former members of the elite unit told DailyMail.com no one they knew had ever heard of him, and that his name did not appear in a database of SEAL veterans they had access to.
A field invader attempted to hug Lionel Messi during Inter Miami’s win on Sunday night. Bodyguard Yassine Chueko grabbed the fan around the neck and pulled him off
Reports said Chueko is a former Navy Seal with combat experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan with expertise in martial arts. But current and former Navy Seals tell DailyMail.com that no one they knew had ever heard of Chueko in the elite unit.
Chueko and Inter Miami did not respond to requests for comment, leaving it a mystery as to where the claim emerged that the ring fighter-turned bodyguard served as a SEAL.
A Navy spokeswoman said they could not locate any records for Yassine Chueko.
News reports also claim that he was hired on Inter Miami president David Beckham’s personal recommendation.
Beckham’s representatives, Authentic Brands Group, also failed to respond to requests for comment.
Christophe Freisenbruch, a former SEAL who runs military medical technology company Rip Shears LLC in Virginia, posted angrily on LinkedIn referencing a news story about Chueko.
‘Karma has a funny way of finding you when you’re publicly advertised as a former SEAL, but you never graduated from BUD/S or earned the Trident. This is either media misattribution or outright fraud. #stolenvalor,’ he wrote.
Another former SEAL, who asked to remain anonymous, told DailyMail.com: ‘I’ve never heard of him. A former colleague has a database and says he’s not a [SEAL] Team Guy.’
It is unclear whether Chueko himself was the source of the claims that he served in the Navy’s crack unit.
But whether an ex-SEAL or not, videos posted on Chueko’s Instagram display his frightening toughness.
Chueko has been hired by Inter Miami to protect Messi and his family
Fans spotted Messi’s security patrolling the touchline after his recent goal against Orlando
Videos posted on Chueko’s Instagram display his frightening toughness. Boxers punch him repeatedly in his torso
In grueling training routines at a Thailand training camp, boxers punch him repeatedly in his torso.
A video he posted of one of his mixed martial arts fights shows him achieving a KO of his opponent with a kick to the head in less than two minutes.
Chueko shot to internet fame when fans shared videos of him diligently pacing the sidelines at a football match this month, keeping a laser-eyed focus on Messi.
He was also filmed quickly stepping in to push away a fan who broke onto the field.
Other videos show him keeping a close watch when Messi poses for photos with fans, delicately but firmly swiping their hands away if they try to embrace the soccer star, or batting off a soccer shirt thrown at Messi as he exited a stadium.
The fierce bodyguard appears to have been hired after Messi began to encounter invasive publicity while living in Miami.
The Argentinian football star is used to being mobbed in his home country, where armed police have even been used to escort him between his hotel and a waiting limousine.
But with soccer’s growing US popularity, he has begun to be recognized and approached in his new home of Miami too – prompting Inter Miami to resort to hiring his burly protection officer.
In July fans spotted him shopping with his family at Miami supermarket Publix, filmed him and asked him for photos.
The Inter Miami forward player ended up leaving the store, as a Miami police SUV arrived.