China Cancels Argentina’s Matches Over Messi’s Exhibition Fallout

The repercussions of Lionel Messi’s absence from Inter Miami’s exhibition match in Hong Kong continue to reverberate, resulting in the cancellation of Argentina’s upcoming friendly matches in mainland China. Local authorities, still incensed by Messi’s failure to play in Hong Kong, have called off the scheduled games against Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

Messi, 36, cited a groin injury as the reason for not participating in the Hong Kong match but subsequently appeared off the bench against Vissel Kobe in Japan, concluding Inter Miami’s global promotional tour. Now, it seems Messi’s international appearances in Asia are also in jeopardy.

The world champions, led by Messi, had previously arranged a tour of China from March 18-26 during the international break, featuring matches against Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing. However, both fixtures have been canceled, marking a significant PR setback.

The Beijing Football Association stated, “Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organize the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate,” regarding the Ivory Coast fixture. This announcement followed the decision by Chinese sports authorities to call off Argentina’s scheduled game with Nigeria in Hangzhou just 24 hours earlier.

In Hong Kong, pro-Beijing politicians express their ongoing displeasure with Messi’s no-show. Regina Ip, a prominent member of the Executive Council, Hong Kong’s Cabinet, condemned Messi on social media, stating, “Messi should never be allowed to return to Hong Kong. His lies and hypocrisy are disgusting.”

Tatler Asia, the organizer of Miami’s friendly at the Hong Kong Stadium, is now offering a 50% refund to fans who attended the match. In a scathing statement directed at the MLS outfit, they criticized Messi and his teammate Luis Suarez, stating, “When we learned that Messi would not be playing, we pleaded with Inter Miami CF ownership and management to urge him to stand up, engage with the spectators and explain why he couldn’t play. He didn’t. The fact that Messi and Suarez played in Japan on February 7 feels like another slap in the face.”

The fallout from Messi’s actions extends beyond the football pitch, evolving into a diplomatic and public relations challenge for both the player and the teams involved. As Argentina’s tour of China faces cancellation and criticism mounts, Messi finds himself at the center of a controversy that transcends sport.

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