Messi controversy sparks diplomatic tensions between China and Hong Kong

Posted : 10 February 2024

In a recent turn of events, Lionel Messi found himself at the center of controversy, triggering a heated debate between China and Hong Kong. Initially ruled out of a friendly match in Hong Kong due to injury, Messi's absence from Inter Miami's game sparked outrage among fans who had paid top dollar for tickets.


Despite attempts by David Beckham to pacify the disgruntled crowd, the situation escalated when Messi played 30 minutes in another friendly against Vissel Kobe in Japan just three days later.


The Chinese media, perceiving Hong Kong as an integral part of China, erupted in speculation, proposing a conspiracy theory that Messi deliberately avoided playing in Hong Kong for political reasons. The Global Times suggested that Hong Kong intended to boost its economy by hosting Messi, and the football star chose to humiliate the city instead.


Chinese social media platform Weibo was flooded with questions about Messi's swift recovery, and a video of a blogger tearing up his Messi shirt collection went viral, accompanied by the sarcastic hashtag "medical miracle."


The discontent reached new heights when Regina Yip, a prominent Hong Kong government adviser, launched a scathing attack on Messi, expressing vehement opposition to his return. Accusing Messi and Inter Miami of intentional harm to Hong Kong, Yip labeled them as "dark people" and condemned their alleged lies and hypocrisy.


The public backlash persisted, prompting the company that organized the match in Hong Kong to announce a 50% ticket refund, incurring significant financial losses and disrupting their vision of creating an iconic event to showcase Hong Kong's vibrancy and relevance on the global stage.


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