China cancels match with Argentina after Messi's episode in Hong Kong
(CNN) — A Chinese capital has canceled plans to host an Argentina national team soccer match amid a growing backlash in the country against its star player Lionel Messi.
Messi faced an avalanche of criticism after being left on the bench during an exhibition match for his Major League Soccer team Inter Miami in Hong Kong.
The match in Hong Kong was attended by 40,000 people, many hoping to see him as the world's best footballer, but the event ended badly as fans booed him and demanded a refund when Messi didn't jump on him. field.
Messi has said that he wants to play but is unable to play due to injury. But that hasn't stopped criticism of him from pouring in on the Chinese internet.
A public relations nightmare
When Inter Miami played Hong Kong on 4 February, Messi was left on the substitutes' bench despite repeated requests from the Hong Kong government and organizer Tatler Asia to take the field.
Messi's coach later revealed that he was injured and the medical team advised him not to play at the last minute. Messi later said it was a “disgrace” and that he wanted to take part.
His appearance after 30 minutes of a friendly against Vissel Kobe in Japan further angered Chinese fans, with many including pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong comparing it to an insult to China.
Messi faces a public relations nightmare in one of the world's most lucrative sports markets, where he has so far enjoyed great popularity.
On Friday, Hong Kong pageant organizer Tatler XFEST announced it would refund 50% of ticket prices to XFEST fans, saying the move would cost the company $7.1 million and result in a loss of nearly $5.5 million.
“Our ambition was to create an iconic moment in support of the government's efforts to remind the world how relevant and exciting Hong Kong is. That dream has been shattered for us and everyone who bought tickets to see Messi on the field,” he said. The company publishes Tatler-branded magazines across Asia.