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Argentine Soccer Star Lionel Messi Sat Out At A Friendly Football Match In Hong Kong And Ctaused a Huge Controversy

Chinese state media suggested that Messi’s action could be “politically motivated” and aimed at “embarrassing” Hong Kong after he played three days later in Japan.

Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi sat out at a friendly football match in Hong Kong and caused a huge controversy.

Inter Miami Argentine forward Lionel Messi friendly soccer match hong kong
Inter Miami’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (C) sits on the bench during the friendly football match between Hong Kong XI and US Inter Miami CF in Hong Kong. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

To the visible disappointment of fans, Messi remained on the bench during the friendly between US soccer team Inter Miami and the Hong Kong team on Sunday Feb. 4.

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Fans cheer for Inter Miami’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi before the friendly football match between Hong Kong XI and US Inter Miami CF in Hong Kong. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

In a press conference two days later, the 36-year-old player explained that pain from an injury he had experienced in previous matches persisted on the day of the Hong Kong match and that “the discomfort was still there and it was very difficult for [him] to play.”

Lionel Messi training friendly football match hong kong
Inter Miami’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi runs during training for the friendly football match between Hong Kong Team and US Inter Miami CF at the Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

“I can understand that people were looking forward to it and I hope that there will be another opportunity for me to play in Hong Kong,” he added.

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Lionel Messi of Inter Miami looks on prior to the preseason friendly match between Vissel Kobe and Inter Miami at National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

Images of the day show some fans visibly annoyed, booing and putting their thumb down, after Messi did not take to the field.

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Vissel Kobe’s midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi (R) challenges Inter Miami’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi during the second half of the friendly football match. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

One video shared online even showed a fan kicking a Messi poster following the match.

However, three days later, Messi played at least 30 minutes in another friendly match in Japan, sparking more anger from some Hong Kong fans and politicians.

The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper owned by China’s communist party, claimed that Messi’s injury was not “convincing” enough and that he had demonstrated “good physical condition” during the match in Japan.

It said that Messi’s action could be “politically motivated” and aimed at “embarrassing” Hong Kong.

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Fans cheer during a training session for the friendly football match between Hong Kong Team and US Inter Miami CF at the Hong Kong Stadium. (Photo by Hou Yu/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)

“One theory is that their actions have political motives, as Hong Kong intends to boost economy through the event and external forces deliberately wanted to embarrass Hong Kong through this incident,” the op-ed said.

Fans had paid up to HK$4,880 (US$624) to see Messi play, and the op-ed said Hong Kong authorities had received more than 600 complaints and requests for refunds.

Event organizers had reportedly told government officials that Messi would play during the match against Hong Kong’s national team, according to BBC.

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Lionel Messi (L) and Luis Suarez (R) of Inter Miami CF walk on the field prior to the preseason friendly match between Hong Kong Team and Inter Miami at Hong Kong Stadium. (Photo by Stephen Law/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Some Hong Kong politician took to social media to express strong thoughts against the football player.

“Hong Kong people hate Messi, Inter-Miami, and the black hand behind them, for the deliberate and calculated snub to Hong Kong,” Hong Kong politician, Regina Ip, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Messi should never be allowed to return to Hong Kong. His lies and hypocrisy are disgusting.”

However, others said the politician did not speak for all Hong Kongers and that the responsibility should lie with the organizers

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Inter Miami’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (2nd L) clashes with Vissel Kobe’s goalkeeper Shota Arai (R) during the second half of the friendly football match. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Last June, Messi went to China to participate in a sold-out international friendly match between Argentina and Australia, causing a huge fan craze.

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