Lionel Messi’s much-anticipated visit to Hong Kong took a disappointing turn for fans as the Argentine football icon did not participate in Inter Miami’s friendly against a local League XI. Despite the match being played in front of a sold-out crowd, Messi remained on the bench, prompting chants of “refund” from disappointed spectators. The Hong Kong government expressed dissatisfaction, suggesting that organizers Tatler Asia might face a reduction in funding. The Major Sports Events Committee had granted HKD 15 million ($1.92 million) for the event, raising concerns about the explanation for Messi’s non-participation.
Miami’s head coach, Gerardo Martino, cited health concerns for both Messi and teammate Luis Suarez, who were deemed unfit to play. The adoring fans in Hong Kong, who had eagerly anticipated witnessing Messi in action, were left disheartened by his absence. The government’s disappointment added to the scrutiny of the organizers’ decisions. Messi’s pre-season tour with Inter Miami continues, with a friendly against J-League champions Vissel Kobe scheduled in Tokyo. The absence of the football legend from the match in Hong Kong not only left fans wanting but also raised questions about the event’s organization and the use of public funding.