It was a messy situation in Hong Kong for Inter Miami over the weekend.
The MLS club that boasts soccer superstar Lionel Messi faced the wrath of fans in Hong Kong after the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner did not play in a friendly against all-star team Hong Kong XI, despite the organizers promising he’d suit up.
Instead, fans who shelled out anywhere from 880 and 4,880 Hong Kong dollars – roughly $113 to $624 – saw no Messi nor did they see fellow star Luis Suárez.
It led to the disgruntled fans chanting “Where is Messi?” and “refund, refund, refund.”
Then a torrent of boos was heaped on Inter Miami owner David Beckham as he addressed the fans after the game on the pitch.
The turn of events has led to questions being raised about what event organizer Tatler Hong Kong knew regarding the availability of Messi.
It’s led the Hong Kong government to call for an explanation of what occurred and Hong Kong’s Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) said in a statement that it would call for a reduction in funding for Tatler Hong Kong, which had received $1.92 million to help put the match together.
“Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organizers’ arrangement,” the MSEC said, per Reuters. “The organizer owes all football fans an explanation.
“The MSEC will take follow-up actions with the organizer according to the terms and conditions, which includes reducing the amount of funding as a result of Messi not playing the match.”
Tatler Hong Kong wished to “express our extreme disappointment” over Messi and Suárez not playing in the Sunday match and claimed that it was unaware that neither would take the pitch.
“Despite some news reports, Tatler did not have any information about the non-participation of Messi or Suárez prior to kick off,” a statement read. “Messi and Suárez were deemed unfit to play by their team’s medical department to everyone’s, including ours, disappointment.”
Messi didn’t play due to inflammation in his adductor that Inter Miami had been monitoring since the Saudi Arabian leg of the team’s preseason tour, according to The Athletic.
Head coach Tata Martino told reporters that he had been evaluated on Sunday morning and that was when the decision was made to keep him out of the match.
Suarez missed out on the Hong Kong friendly due to inflammation in his knee.
“We understand the disappointment of the fans that filled the stadium today about the absence of Leo and Luis Suarez,” Martino said. “This decision was made together with the medical staff. We ran a lot of risk of aggravating their injuries and that’s why they couldn’t be in the game. We understand the disappointment that people have.
“We apologize, but I hope you can understand that, if we had a chance to get them to play for a while, we would have done it. But we were taking serious risks and that is why, together with the medical staff, we made this decision.”