Criticism has emerged following Lionel Messi’s absence from Inter Miami’s friendly match in Hong Kong on Sunday, with some labeling it a “deliberate and calculated snub.” Despite his presence on the bench, Messi did not take the field during Miami’s 4-1 victory over a Hong Kong XI. Coach Tata Martino attributed Messi’s absence to an ongoing injury.
The Hong Kong government expressed “extreme disappointment” and requested an explanation from event organizers. Tensions heightened when Messi did participate in a match against Vissel Kobe in Japan just three days later.
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Inter Miami will wrap up their pre-season preparations with a friendly match against Messi's childhood club, Newell's Old Boys, scheduled for February 16.- Advertisement -
Hong Kong Officials Demand Clarification Over Messi’s Absence
Kenneth Fok, a lawmaker in Hong Kong, voiced his discontent over Lionel Messi’s appearance in Tokyo, stating that it added insult to injury for Hong Kong fans. Meanwhile, senior government adviser Regina Ip expressed strong sentiments, suggesting that the people of Hong Kong harbor animosity towards Messi, Inter Miami, and those orchestrating their actions, due to what they perceive as a deliberate snub to Hong Kong.
In response to Messi’s absence from the Hong Kong match, the culture, sports, and tourism bureau of Hong Kong demanded “reasonable explanations” before he participated in the match in Japan.
Following the initial expression of disappointment by the Hong Kong government, the bureau reiterated its stance, emphasizing the sudden contrast between Messi’s inactive participation in Hong Kong and his subsequent active involvement in Japan. The government expects the organizers and teams involved to provide adequate justifications for these actions.
The bureau further stated that the citizens of Hong Kong have numerous unanswered questions regarding the situation.
Controversy Erupts as Miami Faces Fan Backlash in Hong Kong
Miami Faced Boos from the Crowd as they Exited the Field in Hong Kong.
The Global Times, a media outlet under China’s state control, expressed concerns in an editorial regarding Lionel Messi’s absence from the match in Hong Kong, highlighting it as the only one missed out of six pre-season friendly matches on his trip. This absence has sparked doubts about the integrity of Inter Miami and Messi himself, according to the op-ed, which also suggests that the incident extends beyond the realm of sports.
Tatler Asia, the organizers of the friendly, announced that fans who purchased tickets through official channels would receive a 50 percent refund. They expressed their disappointment with the situation, revealing their attempts to persuade Inter Miami’s ownership and management for Messi to engage with the crowd, to no avail.
Lionel Messi Addresses Absence in Hong Kong
Following his absence from the game in Hong Kong, Lionel Messi addressed the issue on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, offering an explanation for his non-participation.
“In any situation, those who know me are aware that I always strive to be on the field,” Messi wrote in both Chinese and Spanish. “This is especially true for games like these, where we travel long distances and fans eagerly anticipate our matches.”
Miami coach Martino elaborated on the decision to field Messi for 30 minutes against Vissel Kobe, stating that the agreement was reached after the team’s training session the previous evening.
“After Tuesday evening’s practice, Messi expressed feeling good, and we mutually decided he would play for 30 minutes,” Martino explained. “We are pleased with his performance, as Messi appeared comfortable during the match.”
Martino had previously expressed concerns about playing Messi, stating, “It was indeed a significant risk to even play him for a few minutes,” after the match against Hong Kong XI.
Miami will wrap up their pre-season preparations with a friendly match against Messi’s childhood club, Newell’s Old Boys, scheduled for February 16.