SportsHong Kong controversy over absence of Lionel Messi during Inter Miami world tour

Hong Kong controversy over absence of Lionel Messi during Inter Miami world tour

Lionel Messi disappointed fans in Hong Kong.
Lionel Messi disappointed fans in Hong Kong.
Images source: © China News Service, EPA, PAP, VCG via Getty Images | Franck Robichon, Hou Yu

9:00 AM EST, February 8, 2024

Recruiting soccer stars like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Sergio Busquets has created new opportunities for the American club, Inter Miami. The Florida-based team went on a world tour during their preparation period for the MLS season, making stops in various locations, including Hong Kong, an autonomous region of China.

Inter Miami recorded a 4:1 victory over a team of local league stars. Even without Messi and Suarez playing, the team performed their best. However, most of the audience came mainly to watch Argentina's captain Messi. His absence due to an official injury led to loud expressions of disappointment from the audience during the game.

Tickets for the match were priced at roughly $150. Additionally, the event was subsidized by about eight million dollars from the Hong Kong government. This financial decision might have been reconsidered if the event had not been promoted using Lionel Messi's image.

The Chinese government was involved in the situation, expressing open displeasure with the state of affairs in Hong Kong. More than 500 complaints about Inter Miami and Lionel Messi's behavior were received, which were hard to ignore. The controversy was further amplified when Messi participated in a similar match against Vissel Kobe in Japan a few days later.

The Chinese government's actions were severe and may seem hastily directed. They decided to cease cooperation with the Argentine Football Association over an issue that was largely unrelated to the Association itself. The only link is Lionel Messi, who disappointed fans in Hong Kong and happens to be the captain of the Argentine national team.

The Chinese government has exhibited such hostility towards Messi that it has removed all mentions of him from its football federation website. This includes any photos or articles featuring the Inter Miami player.

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