Argentina’s friendly match in Mainland China canceled due to Lionel Messi’s absence

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Argentina’s football friendly match in China next month was canceled on Friday after Lionel Messi failed to play in a club exhibition match in Hong Kong.

World Cup champion Argentina, captained by Messi, had scheduled a tour of China during the international break from March 18-26 last month. Games against Nigeria were held in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing. The two rivals are coincidentally meeting in the Africa Cup of Nations final this weekend.

But Messi, who is on tour with his club Inter Miami, angered fans in Hong Kong when he did not play against the local selection last Sunday and sat on the bench. Messi said that he has a groin injury. But his excuse didn’t work in Hong Kong after playing 30 minutes against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The Argentina-Nigeria friendly match was canceled by the sports bureau in Hangzhou on Friday.

Hangzhou Sports Bureau announced on its official social media, “Due to reasons known to all, we have learned from the supervising authorities that the circumstances are premature for the match to proceed. It has now been decided that the match will be cancelled. ” Account.

An Argentine Football Association official told The Associated Press that it was aware that the match had been suspended and was looking for another venue to play in Nigeria. “This is a sensitive matter,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

Ivory Coast’s friendly with Argentina in Beijing is proceeding as planned, Ivory Coast team spokeswoman Anne-Marie N’Guessan told the AP on Friday.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong organizers of the club’s friendly with Inter Miami said they would offer 50% refunds after days of backlash against Messi from angry fans and the city government.

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After many social media users in mainland China expressed disappointment over Messi’s non-performance, China’s state-run newspaper, the Global Times, published an editorial saying that the impact of the controversy surrounding the football superstar “extends beyond the scope of the game.” Far more.”

In an Instagram post on Friday, local organizer Tatler Asia apologized to those who were disappointed by Messi’s absence and said it was troubled by the “lack of respect shown to the crowd.”

It reiterated that it had requested Inter Miami management to ask Messi to explain to the crowd after learning that Messi, who was required under his contract to play 45 minutes unless injured, would not play.

“He didn’t do that. The fact that Messi… played in Japan on February 7 feels like another slap in the face,” it said.

Organizers said they are in talks with the city government about resolving the issue and that details of the refund arrangement will be announced by mid-March.

“As organizers we will not shirk our responsibility and that is why Tatler Asia will be offering a 50% refund to all those who have purchased match day tickets through official channels,” it added.

Each ticket for the game costs up to 4,880 Hong Kong dollars ($624). In its statement, Tatler Asia said it would refund a total of 56 million Hong Kong dollars ($7.2 million), resulting in a loss of 43 million Hong Kong dollars ($5.5 million). Before refunds, its net income was 13 million Hong Kong dollars ($1.7 million), the organizer said.

Tatler Asia had said earlier on Monday that it would withdraw its funding application from the city government to organize the match.

In response to the announcement, the Hong Kong government welcomed the arrangement in a statement, calling it a responsible step. But it said that Hong Kong society still has many questions about this incident, especially after watching Messi play in Japan, and hopes that Inter Miami can provide a reasonable explanation to the public.

Inter Miami did not immediately respond to the AP’s request for comment.

After the PR crisis erupted on Sunday, Messi addressed the widespread disappointment at a press conference in Tokyo by explaining why he did not play.

He also said that it was regrettable that he could not play in Hong Kong on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. He said in the post that he hopes to return to Hong Kong to play for its fans and go to mainland China to share the joy of football.

But his appearance at the Tokyo Games on Wednesday intensified the criticism.

The match in Japan concluded Inter Miami’s global promotional tour. Inter have won only one of their six matches in Central and North America, Saudi Arabia and Asia. The tour will conclude on February 16 in Florida against Messi’s childhood club, Newell’s Old Boys, from Rosario, Argentina. Many people hope he will end his career there.

Reporting by the Associated Press.

Reporting by the Associated Press.

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