Premier League

Hong Kong government issues statement over Lionel Messi no-show in preseason friendly

Hong Kong government issues statement over Lionel Messi no-show in preseason friendly

Inter Miami managed their first victory of the preseason with a 4-1 triumph against the Hong Kong Team, but it came at a price as stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez missed out through injury — which upset many in attendance at the game.

Boos rained down onto the pitch where the Herons and the Hong Kong team squared off, as many fans in the crowd at the Hong Kong Stadium were unhappy that the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner remained on the bench for the full 90 minutes.

Messi missing out wasn’t a huge surprise given that he came off the bench for a brief cameo near the end of Miami’s 6-0 defeat to Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, but fans will wonder why he couldn’t have come on for a few minutes at the end of the match against the Hong Kong Team as well.

“We understand the reception from the fans towards the absence of Leo and Luis,” Martino said of the fans in Hong Kong that were disappointed that Messi and Suarez didn’t play.

“This was a decision made together with our medical team. We checked their physical wellbeing and they risked sustaining an injury if they went onto the pitch so they couldn’t play. We understand the disappointment from the fans and we ask for their forgiveness. We wish we could have played them for even a short while, but the risk was too big.”

Martino does have a point, though. It’s a tough position to be in, as he doesn’t want to risk two key players to long-term problems before the MLS season has even begun. Miami are set to compete in the Concacaf Champions Cup, MLS, US Open Cup and Leagues Cup, all after going on tour and playing seven preseason friendlies in less than a month.

The Hong Kong government were not happy with how the situation unfolded. The Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) granted nearly $2m in total to have the event setup with Miami, and because Messi didn’t play, the event organizer — Tatler — is set to lose funding.

“Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organisers’ arrangement. The organiser owes all football fans an explanation,” the Hong Kong government said in a release.

“The MSEC will take follow-up actions with the organiser according to the terms and conditions, which includes reducing the amount of funding as a result of Messi not playing the match.”

Tatler defended themselves, claiming that they had no knowledge that Messi and Suarez were to miss the game and not feature at all.

Martino confirmed that Messi’s…

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