Village Voice News

A growing rage in China says Lionel Messi’s absence from the Hong Kong match goes beyond the “realm of sports.”

<p>Lionel Messi, an Argentine footballer, was promptly censured by Chinese state media, lawmakers in Hong Kong, and some fans for playing in a match in Japan on Wednesday, after his benching in a much-anticipated game in Hong Kong just a few days before.</p>
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<p>When the 36-year-old did not take the field during a highly anticipated Inter Miami encounter in front of a sell-out crowd on Sunday, many in the financial center were shocked and demanded explanations and a refund.</p>
<p>Messi entered the game against Vissel Kobe on Wednesday in the sixtyth minute after being declared ineligible to participate in Sunday’s friendly in Hong Kong, according to Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.</p>
<p>According to China’s state-run Global Times, Messi’s absence raised several concerns about Hong Kong’s special treatment.</p>
<p>Out of Messi’s six pre-season friendlies on this tour, the Hong Kong encounter turned out to be the only one in which he missed any action. These uncertainties and misgivings about the honesty of Inter Miami and Messi personally have been heightened by the circumstances.</p>
<p>The Global Times said that some mainland fans traveled 12 hours to watch Messi after leaving Xinjiang, adding that the dismay of both the government and the supporters was “entirely understandable.” This occurrence has had an influence that goes far beyond athletics.</p>
<p>Just before the game on Wednesday, Messi apologized to his Chinese supporters on Weibo, a Chinese social media site like to X. He said it was unfortunate that his ailment prevented him from playing in Hong Kong.</p>
<p>Anyone who knows me is aware of my constant desire to play, particularly in these situations when we have to travel great distances and the crowds eagerly await our performances. In both Chinese and Spanish, he added, “Hopefully we can return and play a game in Hong Kong.</p>
<p>40,000 people attended the match in Hong Kong, and tickets cost as much as HK$5,000 ($640) each. Only 28,614 tickets were sold at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, leaving huge blocks of seats empty.</p>
<p>Like the fans, the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Bureau of Hong Kong expressed their disappointment at Messi’s inability to play in Hong Kong due to an injury in a statement.</p>
<p>But Messi was able to play freely and energetically in Japan three days later. The administration is hoping that the teams and organizers would be able to provide justifications.</p>
<p>Senior government adviser Regina Ip wrote on X that “Hong Kong people hate Messi, Inter-Miami and the black hand behind them, for the deliberate and calculated snub to Hong Kong.” Sports legislator Kenneth Fok stated the event “sprinkled salt wounds” on Hong Kong supporters.</p>
<p>A 26-year-old cadet pilot named Scott Wong said that he would think twice before receiving tickets if Messi returned to play in Hong Kong, just in case he had another injury. “With all the criticism Inter Miami received, in addition to Messi, I believe he feels obligated to make amends.” He made the pledge to return and play the game once more because of this.</p>