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Inter Miami faces fan backlash in Hong Kong after Messi's no-show

Posted : 05 February 2024

Inter Miami faced the ire of angry fans in Hong Kong during a pre-season friendly as Lionel Messi, nursing a hamstring injury, did not play, leading to chants of "refund" and boos. Despite the Hong Kong government expecting Messi to play at least 45 minutes, the Argentine star remained on the bench, causing disappointment among the near-capacity crowd.


Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham's attempt to address the fans was drowned out by jeers. The major sports events committee (MSEC) of the Hong Kong government is considering reducing funding for the event due to Messi's absence, and fans are demanding an explanation from the organizers, Tatler Asia.


The disappointment stemmed from the expectation that Messi would participate in the match, a condition for the event's funding, according to Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong's secretary for culture, sports, and tourism. The MSEC granted 15 million Hong Kong dollars for the event and a venue grant of one million Hong Kong dollars.


The committee is now taking follow-up actions, including possible reductions in funding. The crowd, which had paid over 1,000 Hong Kong dollars for tickets, expressed their dissatisfaction through intensified chants during the match. Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, also from Inter Miami, missed the match due to a knee injury, adding to the frustration of the fans.


Inter Miami's manager, Gerardo Martino, explained that the decision to keep Messi and Suarez out of the game was made in consultation with the medical staff, prioritizing their fitness and safety.


Despite the disappointment, the organizers, Tatler Asia, claimed they had no prior information about Messi and Suarez's non-participation and mentioned that the players were deemed unfit to play by their respective medical departments. The situation may impact Tatler Asia's payment, and the MSEC is seeking an explanation while expressing disappointment in the organizers' arrangements.


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