Soccer fans in Hong Kong were left angry after Lionel Messi, star of Inter Miami's friendly against Hong Kong, did not take the field despite his contractual obligation to play at least 45 minutes. The revelation, made by Hong Kong Sports Minister Kevin Yeung, has sparked controversy across China.
This prompted the fans to demand a refund, they paid huge sums to witness the Argentine maestro in action. In the long-awaited match, played on February 4, Inter Miami won 4-1. However, the stands were filled with disappointment and anger as Messi remained glued to the bench throughout the match.
This decision by Inter Miami, which is co-owned by David Beckham, caused loud whistles and shouts of "Refund!" of 38,323 spectators who spent between 115 and 575 euros for tickets. Adding fuel to the fire, Yeung confirmed that the government's match funding agreement stipulated Messi's participation for at least 45 minutes, subject to his fitness.
He further stated that the organizers confirmed this commitment immediately before the game, which raised expectations among the fans. "Yesterday, before the start of the match, the organizer confirmed that Messi will play in the second half," he said.
Jeung, who attended the game with other officials, including Hong Kong leader John Lee, felt a lot of pressure. However, when Messi remained on the bench after the start of the second half, frustration boiled over. The government tried to negotiate with the organizers, suggesting Messi address the crowd or take part in the trophy presentation.
However, these efforts proved futile, leaving fans feeling cheated and the government considering withdrawing its €1.9 million financial contribution. Inter Miami cited a hamstring injury as the reason for Messi's absence, but a lack of transparency and communication fueled public outrage.
The fans feel misled and rightly demand compensation for the broken promise to witness their idols play. There wouldn't even be 20 percent of spectators at the stadium if they knew before the game that Messi wouldn't play. Messi himself certainly did not expect this outcome of the event, and the popular Argentine did not announce himself regarding this case.