The recent absence of football superstar Lionel Messi in a friendly match between the US club Inter Miami and Hong Kong XI has sparked outrage among frustrated football fans and the Hong Kong government. The match, which took place on Sunday, had attracted the attention of numerous fans and tourists. Many had traveled to Hong Kong specifically to witness the friendly match, as the government of the Chinese special administrative region noted after the game ended on Monday night (local time). “The government and all football fans are extremely disappointed that Messi was unable to participate in the friendly match or provide a personal explanation to the fans upon request“, the statement read.
In the absence of Messi, his club Inter Miami emerged victorious in the friendly match against the team from the former British crown colony. The match, which was viewed by around 38,000 spectators, ended with a score of 4-1 (1-1). Media reports suggest that the 36-year-old Argentine player is currently suffering from a muscle injury. In addition to Messi, Argentine coach Gerardo Martino also did not let Uruguayan Luis Suárez (37), a former striker for FC Barcelona, play for the entirety of the game. Martino explained that his decision was motivated by a desire to protect both players, and he asked for forgiveness from the disappointed fans.
According to the Hong Kong newspaper “South China Morning Post”, some fans claimed to have spent the equivalent of several hundred euros just to see Messi play. One fan even shared with the newspaper that he had traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia, for the game. Media reports indicate that boos could be heard in the stadium following the match. As a result, some viewers demanded a refund for their tickets.
The US Major League Soccer club is currently preparing for the forthcoming season by undertaking a friendly tour through various countries. Just last Thursday, Miami suffered a harsh 6-0 defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. Messi did get some play time towards the end of that game. The team’s next scheduled stop is Japan.