#SBS24 this month in Manchester! Welcome Co-op Live/OVG, RCD Mallorca, Verizon, DWF Law, Hearts, Sunderland AFC, Wembley Stadium, Oxford United, Juventus FC, Croke Park, Stadio Algarve, Everbank Stadium, Kulture City, PAM, Duracell/Procell, Trusts Arena, Suncorp Stadium... Join them
Driving your revenues, sustainability and fan experience: #SBS24 – 15th annual TheStadiumBusiness Summit in Manchester on 17-18-19 June


Messi no-show leaves Hong Kong fans disappointed

Featured image credit: Inter Miami CF

The Hong Kong government has expressed its “deep disappointment” after Lionel Messi did not play in Inter Miami’s friendly match at the Hong Kong Stadium yesterday (Sunday) despite featuring heavily in the promotion of the fixture.

A near-capacity crowd of 38,000 watched on as Inter Miami defeated a Hong Kong XI 4-1, but they were left frustrated after the Argentine World Cup winner remained on the bench for the full 90 minutes. Messi’s teammate Luis Suárez was also an unused substitute.

Inter Miami announced in December that it would be travelling to Asia this month for its first international tour. The club played two matches in Riyadh against Saudi teams Al-Hilal and Al Nassr last week, and the tour will conclude on Wednesday with a match in Tokyo against J1 League champion Vissel Kobe.

Although Messi played in the two matches in Riyadh, he did not feature against the Hong Kong XI yesterday, with fans expressing their anger by booing and demanding a refund.

At a news conference following the match, Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that the government was told that Messi was suffering from an abductor injury just 10 minutes before full-time.

The Hong Kong government had been assured that Messi would feature in the match for at least 45 minutes. The match was organised by Tatler Asia and the Hong Kong government will no longer be providing funding to the company.

The Hong Kong government’s Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) had pledged to provide a HKD15m (£1.5m/€1.8m/$1.9m) grant to Tatler Asia for the event, along with HKD1m for the venue.

A statement from the government said: “Many Hong Kong fans looked forward to the match with enthusiasm, and a lot of tourists came to Hong Kong particularly for the match. The government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed that Messi could neither play in the friendly match, nor explain to the fans in person upon request.

“The way that the organiser and Inter Miami CF handled the situation could not meet the expectations of the fans who showed strong support to Messi, especially those visitors who came all the way here for the match.

“The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau and the MSEC will rely on the terms and conditions of the agreement in requiring the organiser to take responsibility, including a reduction of the amount of funding as a result of Messi being not able to play in the match.”

Tatler Asia has confirmed that it will not be requesting the funding following Messi’s no-show. “Tatler Asia deeply regrets the disappointing ending to what was an exciting occasion,” Michel Lamuniere, chairman and chief executive of the company, said, according to the BBC.

“[Tatler Asia] has decided to officially withdraw its application for… the 16 million Hong Kong dollars government grant.”

No update was given on potential refunds for fans who bought tickets for more than HKD1,000.