Fans in Hong Kong were left angry and annoyed as Inter Miami decided to bench Lionel Messi for their latest friendly. Messi remained on the bench and didn’t make a substitute appearance as his side sealed a 4-1 win against Hong Kong XI.
Other than Messi, even Luis Suarez was left on the bench and wasn’t in action. Throughout the second-half, fans in Hong Kong chanted, “We want Messi!”
Slowly, the anger was fully reflected at the final whistle as jeers echoed from the stands. When Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham tried to thank fans for their incredible support, boos and jeers covered up his voice, and fans showed thumbs-down gestures. They also began to chant for refunds once it was confirmed that Messi would not make an appearance.
The Hong Kong government also lamented the club’s decision to rest the Argentine superstar. The government said in a statement, “Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organiser’s arrangement. The organiser owes all football fans an explanation.”
The attendance was 38,323 fans, who had spent upwards of 1,000 Hong Kong dollars, mainly to witness the 2022 World Cup winner.
Despite Messi’s absence, the match saw plenty of goals as Robert Taylor gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 40th-minute. But Henri Anier equalised soon, just before half-time. Inter Miami went all-out attack in the second-half as Lawson Connery Sutherland (50′), Leonardo Campana (56′) and Ryan Sailor (85′) sealed a 4-1 victory.
Speaking after the match, Inter Miami manager Gerardo Martino said, “We are thankful to Hong Kong for the past few days, we have been treated very well and felt the oppeness of the Hong Kong people.”
“We also enjoyed today in the stadium, but understand there is a lot of disappointment among fans because of the absence of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. This has been the decision of the medical team, we have checked their physical situation, and if we sent them on the pitch, we would have risked their physical well being. We understand fans are very disappointed and we ask for their forgiveness. We wish we could have sent them on the pitch for a while to play, but the risk was too big,” he added.