Messi 'eager to play' in Tokyo, set to further disappoint Hong Kong fans
Published: Feb 06, 2024 03:05 PM
Left: Messi in Hong Kong. Right: Messi arrives in Japan.

Left: Lionel Messi misses the friendly game in Hong Kong. Right: Messi arrives in Japan.

Following his much criticized absence in a Hong Kong friendly, Argentine super star Lionel Messi said at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday that he is happy to be in Japan and he's eager to play there a last game before heading back home. 

Messi said he is not sure whether he will take the field as the Inter Miami is scheduled to play the Japanese side Vissel Kobe on Wednesday during the final leg of their grueling global preseason tour that saw the club travelling four countries for five matches.

The club and the event organizer caused a stir in Hong Kong on Sunday when Messi spent the entire game on the bench due to "injury," saying "it was a decision made by the team's medical department."

Argentine news source M1 disclosed that there's a possibility for Messi to play in Japan, noting, "The coaching staff of Inter Miami is considering granting Messi some playing time during the game against Vissel Kobe." The final decision is expected to be made on Wednesday.

The focus is now shifted to whether Messi will play against the Japanese side. If the Argentine is given a nod to play in Japan, the move will further compound the situation and risk losing the support of a large number of Chinese fans. 

The infuriated Chinese fans called for a refund after Messi missed the game in Hong Kong and are still waiting for an explanation. They took the social media to give every detail between Messi's Hong Kong Tour and his Japan Tour, from no facial expression and no interaction with fans in Hong Kong to the smile on Messi's face upon his arrival. 

The ticket of the Hong Kong friendly costs between 809 and 4,488 yuan ($114-632), while the game in Japan costs between 241 and 2,173 yuan, according to media reports.

When asked about the reasons behind his inability to take the field in Hong Kong, Messi said during the press conference in Tokyo that "it's unfortunate what happened in Hong Kong. I had a minor injury and encountered some issues during the match in Saudi Arabia. I tried to play. I had an MRI which showed no injury, but I still feel uncomfortable."

"Hong Kong has a large number of passionate fans, and I really wanted to play there. But unfortunately, it wasn't possible. I hope to have the opportunity to play in Hong Kong in the future," he noted. 

Contrary to the sunny weather when Inter Miami arrived in Hong Kong, Tokyo was hit by a heavy snowstorm with thunder and lightning when Messi landed at the airport. He was seen smiling to the fans while holding a cup of yerba mate tea. 

When it was noticed that Messi would not feature in the game, the local government put forward remedial proposals, asking Messi to talk to fans after the match or receive a prize on behalf of the team but the suggestions were all rejected.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said at a press briefing on Tuesday that he is extremely disappointed about Messi's absence from the game in Hong Kong and urged the organizer to provide more details and answers.

"The organizer still has to shoulder its social responsibility despite withdrawing the application for HK$16 million in government sponsorship," Lee said.