HONG KONG, CHINA – FEBRUARY 04: Fans watching Inter Miami’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi in action during a friendly match between Hong Kong team and Inter Miami CF at Hong Kong Stadium on February 4, 2024 in Hong Kong, China. The reaction of

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Hong Kong’s government said it may cut funding for a friendly match after soccer legend Lionel Messi did not take the pitch on Sunday.

US Major League Soccer team Inter Miami beat Hong Kong XI 4-1 in a friendly, but did so without the help of the Argentine superstar who was on the bench for the entire 90 minutes.

The Miami Herald reported this. Messi had an MRI last week. While reportedly expected to be left off the roster before a friendly in Saudi Arabia, he appeared in the 83rd minute when Florida was already down 0-6.

The South China Morning Post called Sunday’s match “Biggest loss ever“, reporting that fans were booing at the final whistle and demanding refunds.

Inter Miami did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The friendly match was given the “M” mark status given to major sporting events in the city. The designation allows administrators to use aid measures selected by the city government. Hong Kong said it awarded the event a matching grant of 15 million Hong Kong dollars ($1.9 million) and a matching grant of HK$1 million.

David Beckham's Inter Miami will play Hong Kong in February.

The city government issued a statement on Sunday expressing its “deep disappointment” at Messi not playing and the organizers’ failure to immediately provide a detailed explanation.

“Many Hong Kong fans eagerly awaited the match, and many tourists came to Hong Kong specifically for the match. The government as well as all football fans are extremely disappointed that Messi will not be able to attend the match. so friendly matches can be played, nor explain to the fans in person upon request,” the statement said. “The way the organizer and Inter Miami CF handled the situation did not meet the fans’ expectations.”

Event organizer Tatler Asia featured Messi and teammate Luis Suarez. Promotional materials Suarez also did not play during the match. The organizer also expressed his “deep disappointment” in a statement.

“Despite some reports, Tatler had no information about Messi or Suarez not participating before kick-off. Messi and Suarez were declared unfit to play by their team’s medical department, everyone including us. Disappointment for,” it said in a Instagram post.

The Hong Kong government said it would take steps to hold the administrator responsible in accordance with the terms of the agreement, including possible Lack of funding.

Ticket prices for the match. Costs between HK$880 and HK$4,880, according to a CNBC check on Klook, the event’s ticketing agent. SCMP reported that some fans spent “thousands” on travel and resale tickets.

Inter Miami will play a friendly against Japanese J-League side Vessel Kobe on February 7 in Tokyo. Adult ticket prices From 10,000 yen ($67.39) to 3 million yen ($20,214.45).

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