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Lionel Messi No-Show angers Hong Kong

Lionel Messi's much-anticipated appearance at Hong Kong Stadium ended up in disappointment when the Argentinian sat out Inter Miami’s 4-1 victory over a Hong Kong XI on Sunday because of a hamstring injury. 

Two minutes before kick off at 4:10 pm, Inter Miami's announced the list of players, which did not include Lionel Messi was not included. 

Spectators booed and chanted "refund" when Messi had not warmed up at around the 60-minute mark. 

The organizer of the game, Tatler XFest Hong Kong, said in a statement today that they “did not have any information about the non–participation of Messi prior to kickoff”.

A Hong Kong government spokesman said they too, like the fans, were “extremely disappointed about the organizer’s arrangement”. The post implied this may lead to a reduction in the amount of funding, including a matching grant of 15 million and a grant for the venue of 1 million by The Major Sports Events Committee, as a result of Messi not playing the match. 

According to Yeung Yun-hung, the Secretary of Culture, the organizer confirmed that Messi will play at least 45 minutes in the game. 

“The authorities hoped to take remedial measures, including asking Messi to give a personal account or accepting the trophy on behalf of the team after the game, which ultimately did not happen,” said Yeung.

Messi, the World Cup and eight time Ballon d'Or winner, just finished another friendly game in Saudi Arabia, but played for only 7 minutes.  Messi’s fans, some of them in the Argentina blue and white shirt and others in the pink Inter Miami top, waited outside the team hotel at Ocean Park, hoping to catch a glimpse of this 36 - year - old football star. 

Before the match in Hong Kong, the coach of Inter Miami said Messi will play "as much as possible". 

In December last year, tickets for this game ranged from HK$880 to HK$4,880, and were sold out within an hour. Price of some tickets on the second-hand market rose up to HK$156,153.

Lionel Messi not in football gear at Hong Kong Stadium

Mark Yan, 26, who spent nearly HK$5,000, saved up for two months for his ticket. 

"It's such a disappointing experience, I feel like I was fooled by the organizer of this match, also by the club," said Yan. "We need an apology and explanation from them.” 

The scene turned ugly when David Beckham, the co-owner of Inter Miami, tried to address the crowd, but was drowned out by booing. Chief Executive Lee Ka-chiu and Financial Secretary Chan Mo-po, special guests of the event, also received similar treatment. 

(David Beckham’s address  interrupted by boos)

After the match, Messi stood in the back row for a group photo then left, without receiving the award on behalf of the team.

Kevin Rong, 19, came from Beijing to Hong Kong to watch the game. 

"There should be an agreement in advance, which ensures Messi can at least play for a while," said Rong. "If Messi cannot play, then inform us before the game." 

Rong saw Messi play in Beijing last year. Messi had agreed to play 45 minutes, but ended up playing the entire match. 

"The price of today's match is nearly the same as that game, how come there's such a big difference?" said Rong 

After the controversial match, Inter Miami coach Gerardao Martino said the medical team decided Messi wouldn’t make an appearance, because "It's too risky". 

"The decision was made this morning," said Martino. "We understand the disappointment of the spectators." 

Maria Xiong, 23, has been a Messi fan for more than 14 years. “The club is just trying to make money, it arranged four friendly games in a very short time span, showing an ignorance of the health of its players," said Xiong. 

It is not the first time football stars get involved in controversy over their failure to appear in commercial games as expected. 

Cristiano Ronaldo's game in Shenzhen was postponed two weeks ago because of the star's injury. Although the injury happened before Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival in China, fans had yet to receive any notice. However, the fans were refunded by the organizer.

Inter Miami will travel on to Tokyo today to continue their pre-season tour with a friendly against J-League champions Vissel Kobe on Wednesday.






《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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