With the backlash over Lionel Messi not playing for Inter Miami in a match in Hong Kong continues to simmer, an international friendly featuring the Argentina national team in China was cancelled.
The 2022 World Cup winners who are captained by Messi had scheduled a tour to China during the international break which is from March 18-26 where two matches were supposed to take place, one against Nigeria in Hangzhou and the other against Ivory Coast in Beijing.
“Because of the reasons known to all, we’ve learned from supervising authorities that the conditions are immature for the match to go forward. Now it’s been decided that the match will be cancelled,” the Hangzhou Sports Bureau announced on its official social media account as they cancelled the match against Nigeria.
A week ago, Messi, Inter Miami and owner David Beckham were booed mercilessly in Hong Kong when the Argentine did not come off the bench due to an injury in a match against a local side. The anger turned into vitriol when a few days later Messi played 30 minutes in a match in Japan against Vissel Kobe.
On Friday, the sports bureau in Hangzhou canceled the Argentina-Nigeria friendly. Meanwhile, according to a report on CNA, the match vs Ivory Coast in Beijing was also cancelled.
“Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate,” the Beijing Football Association said in a press release, according to CNA.
After Messi played against Kobe, Global Times, China’s state-controlled mouthpiece lashed into Messi and Inter Miami accusing them of meting out a differential treatment towards Hong Kong.
“The match in Hong Kong became the only one in Messi’s six pre-season friendly matches on this trip where he was absent. The situation…has magnified these doubts and suspicions on the integrity of Inter Miami and Messi himself. Some mainland fans travelled 12 hours from Xinjiang to Hong Kong to see Messi with the disappointment of the government and fans “entirely understandable. The impact of this incident has far exceeded the realm of sports,” it wrote.