Many Lionel Messi fans were extremely upset when the Argentine soccer superstar did not take part in an exhibition game in Hong Kong, despite having paid a significant amount of money to watch him play.
A packed stadium of 40,000 enthusiastic fans turned up for the exhibition match on Sunday, which featured a team of talented Hong Kong players against Inter Miami, the Major League Soccer club that Messi joined last year. A number of individuals in the crowd were donning the blue and white attire representing Argentina’s victorious national team in the 2022 World Cup, as well as the pink colors associated with Inter Miami, both of which Lionel Messi leads as captain.
Videos from Hong Kong Stadium shared with News captured the fans expressing their dissatisfaction by chanting “Refund!” and booing during David Beckham‘s address to the crowd. This occurred after Inter Miami’s victorious 4-1 match.
The Hong Kong government expressed its disappointment over Messi’s absence, as they have been working to regain international support for the Chinese territory. They also mentioned the possibility of reducing the sponsorship amount of 16 million Hong Kong dollars ($2 million) that they had previously provided.
Tatler Asia, the luxury media brand, announced on Monday that it will be retracting its request for government funding.
Jameson Gong, who spent 3,000 Hong Kong dollars ($385) on a ticket for his 12-year-old son, expressed his frustration about how the situation had been handled.
“People should be held accountable and face consequences,” Gong, an American comedian and longtime resident of Hong Kong, expressed to the News. This is quite embarrassing.
Messi was prominently showcased in advertisements for the event, with tickets ranging from 880 to 4,880 Hong Kong dollars ($112 to $624) and selling out within an hour in December.
“To be frank, nobody would have purchased a ticket if they were aware that Messi wouldn’t be playing,” remarked Gong, who conducted a short solo demonstration on Monday in Hong Kong’s central business district. He held up a sign that labeled the game as the city’s “greatest deception.”
If he’s injured, it’s not a problem at all. We completely understand. “But announce it,” he said. He also mentioned that Messi had the option to address the crowd or sign autographs if he was unable to play.
The public’s dissatisfaction comes as a setback to the endeavors of Hong Kong officials to revitalize the international financial hub. In recent years, the city’s reputation has suffered due to a government crackdown on dissent and the implementation of strict COVID-19 measures.
It is quite puzzling how the Hong Kong government, with its ambition to transform the city into a major hub for big events, allowed such a situation to occur. ” Gong asked. ” Gong inquired.
Addressing the media on Sunday following the game, Inter Miami‘s head coach, Gerardo Martino, expressed understanding for the fans’ disappointment. He emphasized that he made the decision to not play Messi, 36, and his teammate Luis Suárez, 37, in order to avoid exacerbating their injuries.
Inter Miami has been traveling around the world, playing exhibition games in preparation for its upcoming regular season, set to begin on Feb. 21. Messi and his teammates arrived in Hong Kong on Friday from Saudi Arabia and are scheduled to play again in Japan on Wednesday.
Supporters from mainland China and various parts of Asia made the journey to witness Messi’s return to Hong Kong after a seven-year gap.
Zhang Yiyi, a 22-year-old admissions counselor from Guangzhou, expressed her disappointment at not being able to fulfill her dream of watching Messi play live.
“I have mixed emotions,” she expressed. I was really excited to witness his incredible magical abilities in person, fulfilling a dream I’ve had for 14 years as a devoted fan.
Yin Chao, a 36-year-old advertising and marketing professional, eagerly spent 2,980 Hong Kong dollars ($380) on a ticket and even took time off from his job in Shanghai just to witness the remarkable skills of Messi. He recognized that there might not be many chances left to see aging and injury-plagued stars like Messi and Suárez in person.
“The post-match remarks made by the host and Beckham are quite infuriating,” he expressed with frustration. Amidst the disapproval of the entire crowd, they appeared to be disengaged and unresponsive.
According to Michel Lamunière, Tatler Asia’s chairman and chief executive, it is stated in the company’s contract with Inter Miami that Messi and other well-known players must take part in the game unless they are injured.
According to him, the team sheet submitted before the game on Sunday listed Messi and Suárez as substitutes. As a result, Tatler Asia had a strong expectation that both players would participate.
Lamunière mentioned that Tatler Asia promptly notified the government upon learning about Messi’s injury during halftime. They also attempted to request that Inter Miami have Messi address the fans instead, but unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful.
Lamunière did not address the possibility of refunds or entertain questions from reporters during the news conference.
Earlier, Hong Kong sports minister Kevin Yeung stated that the government’s contract with Tatler Asia included a provision that Messi must play for a minimum of 45 minutes, taking into account his fitness and safety.
According to Yeung, Tatler Asia had already confirmed Messi’s participation in the second half prior to the match. Surprisingly, the government was only informed about his absence 10 minutes before the game concluded.
“So, we promptly asked them to consider alternative solutions, like having Messi make an appearance on the field to engage with his fans and receive the trophy,” Yeung explained. Regrettably, as everyone can observe, these endeavors did not yield the desired results.