‘This ain’t Argentina. This is Hong Kong ? ‘ – Following Messi’s rejection of the pitch, the Hong Kong government is contemplating recouping costs for a high-profile football match




Fans have expressed their frustration after footballer Lionel Messi (centre) stayed on the sidelines during Sunday’s match at Hong Kong Stadium. Photo: Sam TsangHong KongSocietyThe government, along with all football fans, is deeply disappointed by the organisers’ arrangement regarding Argentinian football star Lionel Messi’s decision to sit out today’s Inter Miami XI match. As a result, the government will be seeking an explanation from the organisers.Cheung EzraMycroft, ConnorPosted: February 4, 2024, at 8:10 p.m.Reasons why SCMP is reliablePay attention to this piece.As a public service, we are making this story freely available to all of our readers. It would be greatly appreciated if you could subscribe to SCMP’s journalism.After star footballer Lionel Messi remained on the sidelines during a friendly between Inter Miami and a local team, the authorities in Hong Kong threatened to withhold sponsorship monies from the promoters of the match.May be an image of 1 person, playing football, playing American football, crowd and text


“Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organisers’ arrangement. The organisers owe all football fans an explanation,” the government said on Sunday.


“The [Major Sports Events Committee] will take follow-up actions with the organisers according to the terms and conditions, which includes reducing the amount of funding as a result of Messi not playing the match.”


A government spokesman said the match was given “M mark” status by the advisory committee, meaning it was considered a major sporting event. Organisers received HK$15 million (US$1.9 million) in funds for the match and a HK$1 million venue subsidy, he added.

On Sunday, Messi supporters will be at Hong Kong Stadium donning Inter Miami jerseys. Sam Tsang (photo)There were whistles and jeers at the end of the US football club’s match against Hong Kong XI since Messi wasn’t playing, much to the disappointment of the football fans, some of whom had travelled from abroad.After the game ended that night, a number of irate fans were heard yelling “refund” in Cantonese. A life-size replica of the Argentine superstar was reportedly kicked to the ground by an enraged fan.The lack of Lionel Messi was a source of frustration for Marco Hu Kun-ming, a commerce student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, who claimed to have spent HK$1,500 to attend the game that afternoon at Hong Kong Stadium.Football superstar Lionel Messi's visit to Hong Kong draws fans from across  region | South China Morning Post

“I flew from Melbourne for this. We waited a long time but he never showed up,” the 21-year-old Hongkonger said. “I’m really disappointed.”

Fellow residents Elaine Law, 32, and her partner Total Ling Pak-to said they had forked out HK$2,200 each to watch the game.


Ling, 33, said Messi had appeared extensively in local advertising for the game, fostering expectations the football superstar would play in the match.

VIDEO: Lionel Messi mania! Fans go wild for Inter Miami star in Hong Kong -  with a ship's sails decked out in pink in his honour & replica shirts  selling out |


“I’ve been waiting almost 10 years to see him,” he said. “This is a rare opportunity to see him, because he might be retiring soon. We are very disappointed.”

Nigerian Antony Osazee, who works as an auditor in Hong Kong, said he paid more than HK$3,600 to see Messi at Inter Miami’s training session on Saturday and the game on Sunday. He was let down both times, he added.

“I came for the training and just saw him doing stretches. Messi isn’t a supermodel.” Osazee said. “People don’t pay just to watch him sit.”

The Post observed a sea of fans wearing Inter Miami pink jerseys at the match, dotted by an island of spectators in the blue-and-white of Argentina’s national team and the red-and-blue of FC Barcelona, paying tribute to Messi’s football career over the last two decades.



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