Chinese officials have canceled two Argentina friendlies set to take place in the country due to public uproar after Lionel Messi missed a match in Hong Kong. The world champions were scheduled to play Nigeria in Hangzhou and the Ivory Coast in Beijing in March.
Messi, Argentina’s captain, claimed a groin injury prevented his participation in the Hong Kong XI match, but fans were dissatisfied when he later appeared in a game against Vissel Kobe in Japan just three days later.
In response, the Beijing Football Association stated, “Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organize the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate.” The sports bureau in Hangzhou cited that the necessary conditions for the event were not met, leading to the match’s cancellation.
In Hong Kong, fans expressed their discontent, jeering Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham and demanding refunds after Messi’s absence. Tatler Asia, the match organizers, have since promised a 50% refund to disappointed spectators.