New Delhi: In a major turn of events, the Chinese sports officials cancelled two friendly matches featuring world champions Argentina as their star player Lionel Messi didn’t turn up for his club Inter Miami in a Hong Kong exhibition match last week. Argentina announced a China tour from March 18 to 26 during which they were to face Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing.
But Messi didn’t take the field in last week’s high-profile friendly between Inter Miami and a select XI in Hong Kong, which sparked anger among his fans who were out to watch him play and support. The crowd demanded a refund of their tickets as Messi cited a groin injury as the reason for his absence from the field.
What did the authorities say?
It went all the more haywire when Messi appeared for 30 minutes at a similar match in Japan against Vissel Kobe just three days later. The Beijing Football Association which oversees football in the capital, stated in a release – “Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate.” It is understood that the Hangzhou game had already been cancelled on Friday evening.
“Given the reasons that everyone knows, according to the competent authorities, the conditions for the event to take place are not met,” the Hangzhou Sports Bureau had said. The spectators who had come to witness the 36-year-old in action by paying over 1,000 Hong Kong dollars ($125), soon erupted into chants of Refund!, Refund! The Hong Kong government demanded an explanation from Tatler Asia who were the match’s organisers.
The organisers have since promised a 50-percent refund. Messi had his take on the circumstances saying it was “bad luck” that he could not play and that he hoped to return to the city. It’s a headache for the Argentine Football Federation after being struck with the cancellation of the matches in China, which is a strategic market in Asia.