A guessing game gripped Spain at the weekend as a LaLiga player, wearing a mask to conceal his identity, appeared in former Barcelona defender Gerard Pique's new Kings League.
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Pique teased the player's participation in a stream on Friday. "For those of you who want the pure stuff, we will make a historic announcement relating to a player who will take part on Sunday," the recently retired centre-back wrote on Twitter.
Para los que se quieran fumar un buen porro, esta noche a las 22h, anuncio histórico de un jugador que participará este domingo en la @kingsleague. https://t.co/AH6hVwWl0u— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) January 6, 2023
He later said a "Primera Division [LaLiga] footballer under the age of 30 will play wearing a Mexican wrestling mask to hide his face and long sleeves to cover tattoos" because his involvement, it was hinted but not confirmed, would not be welcomed by his club or his agent. The player was named "Enigma."
That sparked a quest on social media for Enigma's identity to be revealed -- for those of you of a certain age, think Top Gear's "The Stig."
Denis Suarez, cast aside at Celta Vigo, and Isco, whose contract has just been terminated by Sevilla, were some of the early candidates. Elche's Pol Lirola and Girona's on-loan Atletico Madrid forward Rodrigo Riquelme were also put forward as possibilities.
"It's not me!" Suarez was forced to say on a stream with the journalist Gerard Romero, the president of Jijantes, one of the clubs in the 12-team, seven-a-side competition.
🚨💣 GERARD ROMERO (@gerardromero ) llama a DENIS SUÁREZ en directo para preguntarle si es ENIGMA 69.— Ágora Fútbol (@AgoraFutbol) January 6, 2023
"No lo soy, lo desmiento"...#KingsLeague @KingsLeague pic.twitter.com/6rHzntUyg5
As the guessing continued on Sunday when "Enigma" was due to be the 12th player for XBUYER TEAM -- a weekly spot on each side reserved for the best former or even current professionals -- the Kings League hemmed up their coverage.
"Enigma" was shown arriving in a chauffeured car, already wearing his kit and his costume. He was pictured meeting his teammates and warming up, with social media users looking for any clues. "How tall is he?" "How does he run?" "How does he move?"
.@6_9enigma ya ha llegado al CUPRA Stadium 🕵️♂️#KingsLeagueJ2 #InfoJobs pic.twitter.com/LxmAkizCUX— Kings League InfoJobs (@KingsLeague) January 8, 2023
All eyes were on him when XBUYER TEAM kicked off their game against Kunisports -- whose president is former Argentina striker Sergio Aguero -- but they were left disappointed, as "Enigma" failed to get into the match. Perhaps struggling because of the mask, his footwear did not help, either, and he had to change his boots early on.
He did not deliver the performance to provide any resolution to the age-old pub debate of how a top-level footballer would do if he was dropped into a game between friends -- although the standard in the Kings League is not to be sneered at.
XBUYER TEAM were beaten 1-0, but who was the masked player? Some eagle-eyed social media users spotted part of a tattoo on his neck, through the back of his mask, that they said confirmed it was the recently released Cadiz forward Nano Mesa.
Todo apunta a que #Enigma69 era Nano Mesa, jugador de 27 años con pasado en el Cádiz y el Real Zaragoza. Está sin club desde este verano. Buena jugada de marketing de la Kings League con toda la expectación generada pic.twitter.com/4Y0HseHVeR— Albert Rogé (@albert_roge) January 8, 2023
If it is Mesa, it will come as a letdown considering the hype and some of the stars who have already appeared in the league, including LA Galaxy's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, former Barca and Real Madrid striker Javier Saviola and World Cup winner Joan Capdevila.
Pique, though, has said he will not reveal the identity of the player. Only a "select few" know who it was -- and not even his teammates, supposedly. The gimmick drew in an average viewership of over 500,000 on the league's Twitch stream, with the audience peaking around 900,000.