Lionel Messi and Inter-Miami co-owner David Beckham were criticized on Sunday with angry fans demanding refunds after the Argentine superstar sat out the team's pre-season friendly in Hong Kong. The city government said organizers would have to provide an explanation to fans after the match, in which the visitors defeated Hong Kong Select XI by four goals to one. The World Cup-winning captain, who has a hamstring injury, remained glued to the bench throughout. This angered the capacity crowd of 38,323, who had paid more than 1,000 Hong Kong dollars ($125), and in many cases five times that amount, to see their hero. At half-time of the second half, fans chanted “We want Messi” around the Hong Kong stadium, desperate to see the greatest footballer of his generation in the much-discussed exhibition game.
So how was Messi treated in Hong Kong? pic.twitter.com/vd0N1kMckQ
– Sewyyy (@Sewyyy_RMFC) 5 February 2024
The noise grew louder during the final 10 minutes when it became clear that the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner would not make even a brief cameo.
The banter reached its peak at the final whistle and Beckham was booed as he tried to thank the crowd for their “incredible support”, with fans signaling their anger by giving a thumbs down.
“I'm really disappointed,” fan Jonathan Wong told AFP. “Everyone has come here to see Messi, so I feel a bit cheated.
“Without them it's like another regular Hong Kong Premier League match, where a ticket only costs HK$80. This time we paid HK$5,000.”
Miami coach Gerardo Martino said the club's medical team made the decision after an evaluation Sunday morning.
“We understand the fans' disappointment due to Leo (Messi)'s absence,” Martino told reporters.
“We understand that many fans are very disappointed and we apologize.
“We wish we could have sent Leo at least for a while but the risk was too great.”
The 36-year-old Messi played just six minutes in Miami's last match in Saudi Arabia on Thursday and now faces a race to be fit for the new MLS season, which starts on February 21.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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