A fixture between Argentina and Nigeria has been canceled amid a growing backlash against Lionel Messi’s failure to play in an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong last week.
The organizers of Inter Miami’s friendly against a Hong Kong XI on Sunday, in which Messi failed to appear due to a groin injury, said they would offer refunds of 50 percent after the Hong Kong government as fans criticized the event.
The refunds will cost magazine and lifestyle brand Tatler Asia $56million Hong Kong Dollars (£5.7million).
Messi’s no-show sparked outrage in Hong Kong with fans booing the 36-year-old and Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham. On Wednesday Messi said in a Weibo post that the situation was “regrettable” and that he hoped to return to Hong Kong. “Friends who know me will know I want to give my best in every game,” he wrote.
But the anger soon spread to mainland China, with state media and Hong Kong legislators suggesting that the incident may have been a politically motivated snub.
And the debacle has now taken another turn as Chinese sporting authorities canceled next month’s friendly in Hangzhou between Argentina and Nigeria amid the growing backlash.
“As a commercial event, a company and the Argentinean soccer team negotiated that the team would play a friendly match in March this year in the city of Hangzhou,” the Hangzhou authorities said in a statement.
“In view of the current well-known reasons, according to the competent authorities, conditions to hold the friendly match are not mature, therefore (we) have decided to cancel it.”
It was not yet clear if Argentina’s other friendly against Ivory Coast in Beijing will also be cancelled.
SPORTbible have contacted the Chinese FA for comment and clarification on the matter.
Meanwhile, Tatler Asia said in a statement on Instagram that it was “deeply sorry” and “heartbroken” that fans were let down after Messi stayed on the bench during Sunday’s match.