After Lionel Messi was unable to play in Hong Kong last week, Chinese authorities punished the entire Argentina national team, which will no longer play for Nigeria in Hangzhou.
Argentina’s friendly match against Nigeria next month has been canceled by Chinese sports authorities after Lionel Messi did not play in the match against Hong Kong Eleven on February 4.
Inter Miami remains one of world soccer’s biggest sporting attractions, with fans eager to catch a glimpse of Messi in action. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner has brought more attention to Major League Soccer than ever before, filling stadiums everywhere he and Miami go during the preseason.
However, Messi and new signing Luis Suarez were left on the bench as Miami won 4-1 against Hong Kong Eleven at the Hong Kong Stadium. The Argentine then played against Vissel Kobe in Japan a few days later, but while Japanese supporters managed to watch him play, his absence caused a massive backlash among Hong Kong fans.
In response to the recent negative press, Chinese authorities not only punished Messi, but also canceled the Argentina-Nigeria game altogether. The match was scheduled to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, but China decided to cancel in support of those involved because Hong Kong felt disrespected.
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“As a commercial event, a company and the Argentine soccer team negotiated to hold a friendly match in Hangzhou in March this year,” Hangzhou authorities said in a statement. “According to the competent authorities, given the current well-known reasons, the conditions for holding the friendly match do not exist, so (we) have decided to cancel it.”
Argentina are scheduled to play a friendly against Ivory Coast immediately after the game against Nigeria, but it has not yet been announced whether that match will go ahead as scheduled. Fans attending Hong Kong Eleven vs. Miami were devastated to hear that Messi was suffering from an injury, but the outrage only arose when he came off the bench a few days later.
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Around 40,000 people attended the pre-season games, with an average ticket price of HK$5,000 (£507). Lifestyle company Tatler Asia, which helped arrange the match between Miami and Hong Kong Eleven, said in a statement that it was a “slap in the face” for Messi to put on a show for Japanese fans instead of playing for his country. announced.
“When we learned that Messi would not play, we appealed to the owners and management of Inter Miami CF to ask him to stand up, interact with the audience and explain why he cannot play,” Tatler said in a statement. Stated. “He didn’t. The fact that Messi and Suarez played in Japan on February 7th feels like another slap in the face.”
Fans who bought tickets through legitimate websites were entitled to a 50% refund, but Tatler expects Messi and Miami to give a proper explanation to the Hong Kong government. “The government expects the Inter Miami team to eventually provide a reasonable explanation to Hong Kong residents and fans who traveled to Hong Kong to watch the match,” it added.
The company said Miami had promised Messi and Suarez that they would play 45 minutes unless injured, and that the Argentine felt fit to play after playing 30 minutes in Japan three days later. It is claimed that “For us and everyone who bought tickets to see Messi on the pitch, that dream was shattered today,” Tatler concluded in a statement.