Messi does not attend and Beckham boos as Inter Miami's match in Hong Kong ends in disaster

There's a David Beckham meme, taken from the recent Netflix hit Beckham A documentary that is very popular on social media right now. You know that story, you've seen it a thousand times or more, the one where Beckham calls out Victoria Beckham for “being honest” several times before she finally relents and tells the truth about her privileged upbringing.

After this weekend, fans, sponsors and the Hong Kong government will feel the meme needs an update, as David switches roles with Victoria, and the former England soccer star needs to “get honest” about the debacle of Inter Miami, the team he captains. Co-owned, they find themselves in the latest match of their pre-season world tour.

On Sunday, Beckham's Inter Miami took the field against a select team from Hong Kong, and the MLS side will be happy enough with what happened on the pitch, a relatively straightforward 4-1 win, without star player Lionel Messi needed to come into play. one minute. In fact, Messi remained on the bench throughout the match, dressed in casual clothes and sneakers, and didn't even look like he was going to play at all. And here lies the huge problem and the root cause of the PR disaster.

Nearly 40,000 Hong Kong fans, some of whom spent between $112 and $570 on a ticket and several thousand dollars on resale sites, attended Sunday's match, with the overwhelming majority there to watch Messi play some part in the match. As time passed and it became more likely that Messi would sit out, the boos and calls for a refund began to ring loudly at the Hong Kong Stadium long before the final whistle. When Beckham, a popular man in Asia, took to the field, the booing intensified.

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Inter Miami later revealed that Messi and teammate Luis Suarez, the team's other star player, missed the match due to injury, and both players could not be risked before the club's MLS season begins on February 22. Revealed before kick-off, there is still confusion as to when Messi was injured and why the information was not relayed to local fans sooner.

The situation will be familiar to MLB fans last seasonMany paid high prices to see the Argentine star after he signed with Inter Miami, but the player missed some matches due to injury. However, the MLS matches he missed were one of the few negative stories from Messi's time in the US, with the American public receiving the player warmly thanks to a coordinated push from MLS, a docu-series on Apple TV+ Messi meets Americaa And even Super Bowl ads. Apple is also live streaming and providing comprehensive coverage of the Inter Miami World Tour.

Unfortunately, the no-show in Hong Kong did not give Messi any favors, and social media erupted in anger, with some angry fans destroying promotional materials featuring the player, with many directing their anger at Beckham, Inter Miami and the event organizer. Tatler Asia.

The exhibition match was a big deal for Hong Kong. The visit of Messi, a global icon, World Cup winner, record eight-time Ballon d'Or winner and perhaps the greatest footballer in history, captured the imagination of local fans, sponsors and even the Hong Kong government, which was keen to support major events to show the world a more positive side of the city after it had been devastated. Its tourism industry has suffered due to restrictive travel policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

South China Morning Newspaper Reports The Hong Kong government supported the game with $1.92 million in funding, and an additional $128,000 in support for event organizer Tatler Asia. The organizers spared no money in promoting the match, starting their campaign months in advance, with Messi front and center in all the material. Tatler Asia even sold tickets to training sessions at Inter Miami to die-hard Messi fans who wanted to catch a glimpse of their idol.

In the week leading up to the match, Messi's face was everywhere in Hong Kong, on public transport, on social media, and even on the famous billboards adorning the city's harbour. According to the SCMPThe match contract stipulated that Messi “will play for at least 45 minutes unless he is sick or injured.”

Hong Kong journalist Aaron Bush tweeted this on January 11thTatler Asia published a statement reassuring fans about Messi's playing. “Tatler Asia would like to reassure ticket holders and football fans in Hong Kong that all of Inter Miami’s stars, including Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain Lionel Messi, will be in action at the Tatler XFEST match in Hong Kong,” the statement read.

Everyone involved seemed confident that Messi would play at least some role in the match.

But alarm bells should have rung on Saturday, the day Inter Miami arrived at Hong Kong International Airport, with the team unwilling to play ball and participate fully in the official welcome ceremony. Messi also appeared sporadically in the open training session.

On Sunday, long after the game had ended with a chorus of boos and acrimony, the political blame game began. the SCMP Reports stated that the government was angry about the situation, and was told on the morning of the match that Messi would play. “With regard to Messi not playing the match today, the government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed with the organisers’ arrangements. The organizer owes all football fans an explanation,” the Hong Kong government said in a statement.

The statement added: “The Major Sports Events Committee will follow up with the organizer in accordance with the terms of the agreement, including the possibility of deducting sponsorship funds due to Messi’s failure to play.”

David Beckham Inter Miami in Hong Kong

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham's reaction during the pre-season friendly match between the Hong Kong club and Inter Miami.

Fred Lee/Getty Images

In the face of public anger… Tatler Asia also issued a statement on SundayThey expressed their “extreme disappointment regarding the non-participation of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.” The statement added: “Despite some news reports, Tatler had no information about the non-participation of Messi or Suarez before kick-off. Their team's medical department deemed Messi and Suarez unfit to play, much to everyone's disappointment, including us.

As for Inter Miami, the team's global tour is supposed to extend to Japan, where it will play a match against Vissel Kobe on February 7 before ending in Argentina, Messi's birthplace, and a match against the first team, Newell's Old Boys, on February 15. But once again fans will demand Beckham and co. “Be honest” as well Reports in Spain and on social media On Sunday, it was suggested that the Vissel Kobe match would be canceled and the team would return home early.

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