February 04, (THEWILL) – Football icon Lionel Messi left Hong Kong fans disappointed on Sunday, after failing to take to the pitch in a friendly as his club Inter Miami beat a local league XI 4-1. Spectators chanted “refund” and the Hong Kong government said organisers may face funding cuts after the 36-year-old stayed on the bench.
The Major Sports Events Committee granted £1.2 million for the event. “Regarding Messi not playing, the Government and all fans are extremely disappointed. The organiser owes an explanation,” they said. “We will take actions under the terms, including reducing funding.”
Organisers Tatler Asia said they expected Messi and teammate Luis Suarez to feature. “Despite reports, Tatler had no prior information of non-participation,” they stated. “Their medical team deemed them unfit, to everyone’s disappointment.”
Miami manager Gerardo Martino said playing the stars risked aggravating injuries. “Medical staff voiced it was very risky for Messi to play today,” he told reporters. Suarez also had knee swelling after recent matches.
Some 40,000 attended Saturday’s training, chanting “Messi!” and holding his jersey. “He’s been my idol since day one,” said 16-year-old fan Aasir Mubarak. Many felt thrilled to see the World Cup winner up close even if he remained on the bench. Miami continue pre-season in Tokyo before their MLS opener on 21 February.
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Jude Obafemi is a versatile senior Correspondent at THEWILL Newspapers, excelling in sourcing, researching, and delivering sports news stories for both print and digital publications.