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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Lionel Messi has refuted assertions that his absence from a highly anticipated match in Hong Kong, which sparked discontent among Chinese fans, was politically motivated. The renowned footballer clarified that his non-participation was solely due to an injury, dispelling speculations of deliberate avoidance.

During Inter Miami’s pre-season tour match against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4, Messi, an eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, remained on the bench. This decision stirred disappointment among the nearly 40,000 spectators, many of whom had eagerly anticipated witnessing Messi’s performance and had paid premium prices for tickets.

The discontent among fans was palpable, with chants for refunds, thumbs-down gestures, and boos directed towards Messi and the team’s co-owner, David Beckham, echoing through the stadium after the match. Some nationalist figures interpreted Messi’s absence as a slight against China, particularly in light of his subsequent participation in a friendly match in Japan merely days later.

In a video shared on China’s Weibo social media platform, Messi addressed the controversy, vehemently denying any political undertones behind his absence. He emphasized his enduring admiration for China and highlighted the positive relationship he shares with the country, expressing regret over the misunderstanding caused by his injury-induced absence.

Messi attributed his non-participation to an injury, specifically citing inflammation of an adductor muscle. He reassured fans of his unwavering commitment to playing and expressed gratitude for their ongoing support, underscoring his deep appreciation for every fan.

While many fans rallied behind Messi, expressing unwavering support and dismissing allegations of prejudice, dissenting voices persisted. Some commentators remained skeptical, questioning the sincerity of Messi’s explanation and urging him to take further action to address the fallout from his absence.

Despite Messi’s assurances, the fallout from his absence continues to reverberate, impacting upcoming fixtures involving the Argentine national team. The cancellation of Argentina’s friendlies against Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing serves as a stark reminder of the repercussions stemming from Messi’s absence in Hong Kong, underscoring the broader implications of the controversy.

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