Lionel Messi and David Beckham were cascaded with boos and chants for a refund after Inter Miami suffered a public relations disaster in Hong Kong.
Messi single-handedly took football in the USA up a notch upon signing with David Beckham’s Inter Miami in 2023. The legendary Argentine didn’t have long to wait before lifting his first piece of silverware in Florida when helping Inter Miami win the Leagues Cup.
The 36-year-old was undoubtedly the star of the show in that competition, scoring 10 goals in seven matches to begin his American chapter with a bang.
MLS sides are currently in pre-season ahead of the 2024 campaign getting underway later in February. Inter Miami had drawn once and lost three times in pre-season prior to their 4-1 victory over a Hong Kong League XI on Sunday.
However, what should have been a turning point in Inter’s pre-season preparations has been marred by a public relations debacle.
Messi no-show sparks outrage
Indeed, according to the BBC, Messi was contracted by the Hong Kong government to play at least 45 minutes in the friendly.
However, a minor hamstring injury prevented the Argentine from featuring, much to the anger of those in attendance.
When it became apparent Messi would not get on off the bench, chants of ‘”refund” were heard in the near sold-out stadium.
Tickets went for a minimum of £101 and the lure of seeing Messi in person was unquestionably the main attraction.
Alas, Messi did not feature and both he and Inter part-owner and president Beckham were serenaded with heavy boos post-match.
Messi later defended both himself and Inter when speaking in a press conference in a Tokyo hotel.
“In Hong Kong, we had an open-door training session and I went out because there was such a big crowd there and there was a clinic with the kids, and I wanted to be there and participate,” said Messi (as quoted by the Evening Standard).
“But the truth is that the discomfort was still there and it was very difficult for me to play.
“I can understand that people were looking forward to it and I hope that there will be another opportunity for me to play in Hong Kong.”
Messi tempers expectations
Inter’s next friendly takes place in Tokyo on Wednesday against Japanese side Vissel Kobe.
However, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the Hong Kong disaster, Messi was keen to stress his involvement in the upcoming match is not guaranteed.
“For tomorrow, I don’t know, we’ll need to see how it goes in training today,” he added. “We still don’t know if I would be able to or not, but I feel much better than I did a few days ago and really want to be able to play.”
Unlike in Hong Kong, plenty of tickets for the Vissel Kobe friendly are still available on the open market. That’s despite tickets for the clash going on sale back in December.