Sports

Anger in China after Messi skips Hong Kong game but plays in Japan

Beijing, Feb 8 (EFE).- Chinese fans and media continued to criticize Argentine star Lionel Messi after watching him play in a friendly match in Japan on Wednesday, having skipped a similar game at the weekend in Hong Kong due to an injury.

Messi’s absence in Inter Miami’s friendly match against Hong Kong on Sunday due to abductor discomfort has created a backlash in the Asian country, with media such as the state newspaper Global Times reporting “disappointment and anger” of the fans.

The Chinese newspaper criticized Messi for his supposed “impassive” and “reluctant” attitude during his stay in Hong Kong while in Japan, where he played half an hour of the match and “seemed to have become another person.”

Messi apologized to his Chinese fans on the social network Weibo, similar to X, just before Wednesday’s game, saying it was a “real shame” for him not being able to play in Hong Kong due to injury.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to play … especially in these games where we travel so far and people are excited to see our games. Hopefully, we can come back and play a game in Hong Kong,” Messi wrote.

Messi’s club, Inter Miami, clarified on its part, saying that it would have been “too risky” for Messi to play.

“Messi did not take any actions to appease the disappointed fans at the scene, and there was no apology in the subsequent statement,” said the Global Times.

“As a fan, what angers me the most is not that Messi couldn’t play, but the feeling of being deceived and disrespected,” a fan who traveled from South China’s Guangdong Province to watch the match told the Global Times.

On Weibo, internet users have criticized the Argentine’s friendly attitude toward the Japanese, taking photos with celebrities and greeting fans with a smile contrasting with his “expressionless and hands-in-pocket reaction” in China.

Chinese fans also attacked David Beckham, a shareholder of Inter Miami, and politicians such as Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong’s secretary for culture, sports, and tourism.

After Messi’s no-show, Yeung revealed at a press conference on Monday that one of the key conditions of the financing agreement was that Messi would participate in the match for at least 45 minutes, subject to physical fitness and safety considerations.

When tickets went on sale last December, fans rushed to shell out exorbitant sums, paying between 880 and 4,880 Hong Kong dollars ($112 and $572) to get any of the 40,000 available for the match. EFE

jco/am

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