Following his World Cup victory on Wednesday, Lionel Messi was the target of a renewed attack by Chinese official media, lawmakers in Hong Kong, and supporters, who accused the champion of ‘political reasons’.





Messi’s benching in a much-anticipated game in Hong Kong just a few days before to his involvement in Tokyo incited even more ire.





When the 36-year-old did not take the field in front of a sell-out crowd on Sunday, many in the financial hub—a Chinese special administrative region—were shocked, and supporters demanded explanations and a reimbursement.








Messi was declared ineligible to play in Sunday’s friendly against Hong Kong, according to Miami head coach Gerardo Martino. However, on Wednesday, he entered the game as a 60-minute substitute against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo.





China’s state-run Global Times claimed that Messi’s absence raised several concerns about Hong Kong’s special treatment and charged the Argentine striker with having “political motives” in an effort to “embarrass” Hong Kong.





Out of Messi’s six pre-season friendlies on this tour, the Hong Kong encounter turned out to be the only one in which he missed any action. The circumstances have heightened skepticism and uncertainty regarding Messi’s and Inter Miami’s honesty.





Twelve months ago, during Argentina’s friendly match against Australia, Messi received a thunderous welcome in Beijing. Additionally, he collaborates with well-known Chinese companies like J&T Express, Huawei, Chery, Tencent, and Mengniu.





As Inter Miami looks to cash in on the possibility of landing one of the biggest names in soccer, a friendly in Hong Kong made perfect sense.





But after undergoing an MRI on a suspected injury, he only played the last seven minutes of the friendly against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr, raising suspicions that he would miss out.








According to the Global Times, some mainland fans nevertheless traveled 12 hours to see Messi after leaving Xinjiang, and the dismay of both the government and the supporters was “entirely understandable.” This occurrence has had an influence that goes well beyond athletics.





Just before the game on Wednesday, Messi apologized to his Chinese supporters on Weibo, a Chinese social media site akin to X. He said it was unfortunate that his ailment prevented him from playing in Hong Kong.





He wrote in Chinese and Spanish, “Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to play… especially in these games where we travel so far and people are excited to see our games.”





“Hopefully, we can return and engage in a game in Hong Kong”





Attendance at the Hong Kong event was 40,000, with tickets costing as much as about $640.





Meanwhile, only 28,614 tickets had been sold at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, leaving huge blocks of seats empty.





Miami’s president and co-owner David Beckham was heckled loudly during a speech he was giving on the field during full time in Hong Kong. While the England icon was speaking, the enraged supporters were also yelling “refund.”





Officials were informed with barely ten minutes remaining that Messi would not be playing, despite being assured he would. This was confirmed by Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong’s secretary for culture, sports, and tourism.


Yeung stated, “We asked them right away to look into other solutions, like Messi meeting his fans on the field and accepting the trophy.”





Sadly, as you can all see, this did not turn out as planned.

By xplora

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