The recent exhibition match in Hong Kong featuring David Beckham's Inter Miami soccer team ended in disappointment and frustration, leaving fans, sponsors, and the government of Hong Kong deeply dissatisfied as Messi's no-show leads to Inter Miami disaster.
The match, which was part of Inter Miami's global pre-season tour, saw Inter Miami secure a 4-1 victory over a Hong Kong select team. However, the absence of star players Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez from the game proved to be a major source of controversy.
With nearly 40,000 fans in attendance, many of whom had paid substantial amounts for tickets, the anticipation was high for Messi's appearance. However, as the game progressed, it became evident that Messi would not be taking the field. The disappointment among the crowd grew, and boos and calls for refunds started echoing through the Hong Kong Stadium even before the final whistle. To make matters worse, when David Beckham, a popular figure in Asia, stepped onto the field, the boos intensified.
It was only after the match that Inter Miami revealed Messi and Suárez had been sidelined due to injury, with the club unwilling to risk them before the MLS season begins on February 22. This lack of information prior to the match left fans puzzled and frustrated, evoking memories of similar situations in the MLS last season when Messi occasionally missed games due to injury.
In contrast to his warm reception in the United States, this incident has sparked outrage on social media, with fans expressing their anger at Beckham, Inter Miami, and event organizer Tatler Asia. The exhibition match held immense significance for Hong Kong, with the government supporting it with $1.92 million in funds and an additional $128,000 subsidy to Tatler Asia, the event organizer. The extensive promotional campaign leading up to the match featured Messi prominently and included ticket sales for Inter Miami's training sessions.
Messi's face was plastered all over Hong Kong in the week before the game, creating widespread anticipation. The contract for the match stipulated that Messi would play for a minimum of 45 minutes unless he was ill or injured. Tatler Asia even reassured fans on social media that Messi and other marquee stars would be involved in the game.
However, signs of trouble emerged when Inter Miami arrived at Hong Kong International Airport and refused to fully participate in the official welcoming ceremony. Messi's sporadic appearances during open training sessions raised further doubts. The day after the match, the political blame game began, with the Hong Kong government expressing its disappointment and the possibility of deducting sponsorship funds due to Messi's absence.
Tatler Asia also released a statement expressing "extreme disappointment" and explaining that they had no prior information about Messi and Suárez's non-participation. According to their statement, the decision was made by the team's medical department due to the players' fitness concerns.
As Inter Miami's global tour was set to continue with a match against Vissel Kobe in Japan on February 7 and a final game in Messi's native Argentina against Newell's Old Boys on February 15, fans are now demanding transparency and honesty from the team. Reports have surfaced suggesting that the Vissel Kobe match may have been canceled, raising questions about the future of Inter Miami's tour.
The Hong Kong match has left a sour taste in the mouths of fans, sponsors, and the government, highlighting the importance of clear communication and transparency in sports events of this magnitude. The fallout from this incident may have long-lasting consequences for Inter Miami's global tour and its reputation on the international stage.