Messi insists Hong Kong no-show was due to injury, not politics

By AFP   February 19, 2024 | 07:14 pm PT
Messi insists Hong Kong no-show was due to injury, not politics
Lionel Messi (C) in Inter Miami's 4-1 victory over Hong Kong XI in Hong Kong Stadium, Feb. 4, 2024. Photo by Reuters
Argentine football star Lionel Messi insisted Monday that his absence from a match in Hong Kong two weeks ago that drew the ire of spectators was not a snub but prompted by injury.

In a video posted on China's Weibo social media platform, Messi rejected chatter that his no-show was "for political reasons" and said if this had been the case, "I would not have traveled" to Hong Kong in the first place.

"As everyone knows, I always want to play and be in every game," he said.

The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner stayed on the bench throughout Inter Miami's 4-1 win against a Hong Kong select XI on Feb. 4.

His no-show drew boos and calls for refunds from thousands of fans who had shelled out large sums to see the World Cup-winning captain play in Hong Kong.

Widely considered the best player of his generation, Messi is a highly marketable sportsman who people around the world will pay top dollar to see, even in the twilight of his trophy-laden career.

Some nationalist politicians and outlets interpreted Messi's absence -- and his subsequent appearance at a similar match in Japan -- as a snub to China, without offering evidence.

Sports bosses in China subsequently canceled two friendly matches featuring world champions Argentina.

Messi spoke in his video of a "very nice and very close" relationship with China, a country with which he said he had "done a lot of things" including matches and events.

His reason for not playing, the star striker said, was due to injury, specifically "inflammation of an adductor" muscle.

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