China cancel upcoming Argentina friendlies

China cancel upcoming Argentina friendlies

The lure of Lionel Messi continues to know no bounds and his no-show for Inter Miami in Hong Kong has caused a storm

News Insights

  • Lionel Messi was unable to play for his Inter Miami club against a Hong Kong XI in a friendly.
  • Fans had paid hundreds of dollars to catch a glimpse of the Argentinian great.
  • Messi’s absence was made worse by the fact he played a friendly against Vissel Kobe in Japan just three days later.
  • China have subsequently cancelled two Argentina friendlies that were due to take place in the country.

Only a handful of football players have ever been able to transcend the game and break into political culture, but Lionel Messi has always been one of them. 
Now plying his trade with MLS side Inter Miami, Messi had been scheduled to bring in the fans in Hong Kong but by staying on the bench in a friendly, relations between Messi and China have become rather strained.  

Global football is as much about increasing the brand of the club as it is about the results on the pitch and for Inter Miami, having Lionel Messi in their ranks is their key business selling point. 
With Inter Miami touring Asia as part of their pre-season schedule, Lionel Messi was expected to take the field in a friendly against a Hong Kong XI. 
Messi has been nursing a groin injury and was not risked from the bench, in a decision that looks to have soured the relationship between him and his millions of fans from both Hong Kong and China. 
Managing Messi 

For most football teams, understanding the potential of the brand is a key component but with Lionel Messi, the Argentinian great is a brand of his own. 
His presence at Inter Miami certainly gets punters and online betting sites moving when it comes to MLS betting but beyond the regular league action, he brings in fans from all over the world. 
Whilst there will be obvious disappointment for fans in Hong Kong that Messi didn’t make it onto the pitch, Inter Miami have opted to protect the interests of the player, which is their number one right as his club. 
Recovery in Japan 

With the animosity surrounding Messi not playing against the Hong Kong XI causing a stir with many Chinese media outlets, the dust had begun to settle somewhat on the situation. 
However, Messi took to the field for Inter Miami in Japan just three days after the incident in Hong Kong, sparking scenes of anger amongst the Chinese press and media. 
His substitute appearance was billed as the next step in his recovery by the club but with fans demanding refunds, the hype surrounding Messi had reached fever pitch. 
Argentine angst 

In relation to many other footballing countries, Argentina have long had a positive relationship with China, and they had two friendlies scheduled to take place there in March 2024. 
Games against Nigeria in Hangzhou and the Ivory Coast in Beijing have now been cancelled, with the relevant authorities citing the Messi no-show as the main rationale. 
How the situation will be resolved remains to be seen but for Inter Miami and Lionel Messi, public relations in Hong Kong and China have certainly taken a hit. 

Pre-season tours to Asia have long been part of the global footballing landscape and Inter Miami hoped to make a successful trip out to the Far East to grow their brand. 

However, Lionel Messi staying on the bench in a game against a Hong Kong XI has caused a storm, that could have ramifications for many years to come.