Messi, on tour with his Inter Miami club, outraged fans in Hong Kong when he didn't play against a local selection last Sunday and remained on the bench. Messi said he had a groin injury.
Updated Feb. 10, 2024 6:17 p. m. ET. An Argentina soccer friendly in China next month was canceled on Friday in more fallout from Lionel Messi failing to play in a club exhibition match in Hong Kong. Hong Kong organizers of the club friendly with Inter Miami said they will offer a 50% refund following days of backlash against Messi from angry fans and the city government. Many social media users in mainland China expressed their disappointment over Messi's no-show, with China's state-run newspaper, the Global Times, publishing an editorial that said the impact of the controversy surrounding the soccer superstar "Has far exceeded the realm of sports." In its statement, Tatler Asia said it would refund 56 million Hong Kong dollars in total, resulting in a loss of 43 million Hong Kong dollars. It said Hong Kong society still has many questions over the incident, especially after seeing Messi play in Japan, and hoped Inter Miami can provide a reasonable explanation to the public. After the PR disaster erupted on Sunday, Messi addressed the widespread disappointment by explaining why he did not play in a news conference in Tokyo. He said in the post that he hoped to return to Hong Kong to play for his fans and go to mainland China to share the joy of football.