In reaction to Lionel Messi’s absence against Hong Kong XI, China has decided to cancel a scheduled friendly match between Nigeria and Argentina. The Argentine superstar was injured and unavailable to play while the Herons were in Hong Kong, and the Chinese authorities have not taken this lightly.
Messi is widely seen as a global football icon, and Inter Miami’s match against Hong Kong was an opportunity for fans in the country to watch him play. His eventual absence sparked anger among the fans, but he later came out to reveal he had been injured. The former Barcelona forward said (via USA Today):
“The truth is that it was bad luck that I couldn’t be present on the day of the match in Hong Kong. In the first game of the tour in Saudi Arabia I felt discomfort in my adductor and that’s why I left the match…”
“Unfortunately, it is something that happens in football, in any game it can happen that we get injured… I hope we can return and we can play another game in Hong Kong and I can be present as I do whenever I can, but the truth is that it is a shame that I was not able to participate.”
However, authorities in Hong Kong expressed disappointment in Lionel Messi‘s absence and it has now created a political consequence with China. The Hangzhou government has made the statement regarding Argentina’s match with Nigeria in March (via Mirror):
“As a commercial event, a company and the Argentinean soccer team negotiated that the team would play a friendly match in March this year in the city of Hangzhou. In view of the current well-known reasons, according to the competent authorities, conditions to hold the friendly match are not mature, therefore (we) have decided to cancel it.”
Outrage as Lionel Messi misses Hong Kong XI match but plays in Japan
Football fans in Hong Kong were not pleased when Lionel Messi did not play against Hong Kong XI. While they were sympathetic to his injury, which he revealed in a press conference, there was renewed outrage as he played in Japan, just a few days later.
There were high ticket prices in Hong Kong, with tickets reaching $640 each, as a massive crowd flocked to watch the Argentine legend play. The fans have now demanded refunds, as the forward did not play, while Tatler Asia, organizers of the match, are demanding answers from Inter Miami.
They have questioned his unavailability in Hong Kong and his sudden availability in Japan (via Mirror), and Inter Miami will look to provide an explanation. The situation has already affected the friendly between Argentina and Nigeria, and Lionel Messi will be hoping it doesn’t worsen relations further.