Football
Lionel Messi’s apology video backfires, faces massive backlash from Hong Kong fans

Lionel Messi’s apology video backfires, faces massive backlash from Hong Kong fans

Lionel Messi will start his MLS 2024 journey as Inter Miami face Red Salt Lake in season opener

Lionel Messi has issued an apology video for his absence in a friendly match while injured, following an incident during Inter Miami’s preseason.

The team was scheduled to play against a Hong Kong XI on February 4, with tickets sold at a premium due to Messi’s expected participation. However, fans reacted with anger when Messi couldn’t play due to injury, expressing their displeasure by whistling whenever his image appeared at the stadium.

The situation escalated into controversy, prompting intervention from the Hong Kong Government. The match’s organizers had initially secured funding through a €2m government grant, but after the backlash, lifestyle and media brand Tatler Asia withdrew the grant application.

Tatler Asia also refunded half the ticket prices, which exceeded €500 for top-tier seats. Regina Ip, the convenor of the Executive Council in Hong Kong, tweeted condemning Messi, Inter Miami, and those orchestrating the snub to Hong Kong. She insisted Messi should be barred from returning to the city.

November 30, 2023 Lionel Messi and his Inter Miami teammates will kick off the 2024 preseason with an exhibition match at El Salvador on Jan. 19, 2024. - ZUMAm67

“Hong Kong people hate Messi, Inter Miami, and the black hand behind them, for the deliberate and ­calculated snub to Hong Kong. He should never be allowed to return to Hong Kong,” she wrote

Despite Messi’s apology video addressing his injury, denying any political motives, fans remained dissatisfied. The post garnered over 2 million interactions on Chinese social media platform Weibo, with many fans upset that Messi didn’t offer a more explicit apology and instead focused solely on his injury as the reason for his absence.

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