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Hong Kong leader asks Tatler Asia to disclose details amid calls for refund after Messi no-show

Furious fans demand refund after Messi spends entirety of game out of field

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 06 February 2024 12:23 GMT
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Fans boo David Beckham and Lionel Messi after latter sits out Hong Kong friendly

Hong Kong leader John Lee on Tuesday appeared to blame the organisers of Inter Miami's pre-season friendly over Lionel Messi's failure to play during the exhibition game.

Hong Kong’s government has demanded an explanation for Messi’s no-show from the Tatler Asia magazine, the organiser of the match.

Mr Lee was among the 38,000 spectators present at the jam-packed Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday to watch the much-hyped match against Hong Kong XI, where tickets were sold at upwards of HK$1,000 (£101).

Fans at the ground chanted “we want Messi” and called for a refund after the football star spent the entirety of the game in a tracksuit on the bench due to a hamstring injury.

Inter Miami owner David Beckham was also booed during a speech. Luis Suarez was also not used from the bench by Inter boss Tata Martino, who suggested that the former Barcelona pair could not be risked.

File: Inter Miami's Lionel Messi speaks during a press conference at a hotel, ahead of his team's friendly soccer match (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Hong Kong leader on Tuesday said: "The government will continue to urge the organiser to give a detailed account of the event and actively respond to the requests of ticket holders."

"In promoting this event, the government did a lot of work to coordinate and provide assistance to the organiser to strive for the best possible outcome. The performance of the organiser has an impact on Hong Kong’s image and reputation,” Mr Lee said, according to The Standard.

“The government also has the responsibility to ensure public funding is spent appropriately, especially when such event is sponsored by the government.”

Mr Lee added that the government and fans were extremely disappointed that the organiser failed to arrange even one of the requests by officials.

According to reports, the consumer council in Hong Kong has received 245 complaints related to the game.

Kevin Yeung, the secretary for culture, sports and tourism on Monday, said the government’s funding agreement with the match organiser required Messi to play on the field for at least 45 minutes, unless there were safety or health concerns.

Mr Yeung said the organisers had reaffirmed that Messi would be playing in the second half of the match before the start of the game.

When the government noticed the second half did not proceed as planned, the government tried to follow up with the organizer but was told Messi could not play due to an injury, he said.

“We therefore immediately request them to explore other remedies such as Messi appearing in the field to interact with his fans and receiving the trophy. Unfortunately, as you all see, these did not work out,” he said.

Following the backlash, Tatler Asia withdrew an application of HK$16m (£1.63m) in government sponsorship and said they had no prior information about the football giants not participating in the friendly match.

It also expressed its “extreme disappointment regarding Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez’s non-participation".

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