Argentina tour of China canceled over Messi no-show row

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Both of Argentina‘s planned friendlies in China have been canceled by local authorities after Lionel Messi did not play in an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong last weekend.

Beijing’s soccer association said on Saturday that it would not organize Argentina’s scheduled friendly clash against the Ivory Coast in March. The news comes a day after Hangzhou’s sports authorities also canceled a friendly between Argentina and Nigeria.

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Messi’s failure to play in Hong Kong on Sunday caused widespread anger among fans, with China’s state-controlled Global Times saying the “impact of this incident has far exceeded the realm of sports.”

The Beijing Football Association said in a statement to local media: “Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate.”

Messi, who did not play in the friendly due to a reported injury, appeared as a second-half substitute on Wednesday in a subsequent Inter Miami friendly against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo.

Organisers of the Hong Kong friendly, Tatler Asia, announced a 50% refund on tickets, which cost up to nearly HK$5000 ($639), following criticism from the Hong Kong government.

Inter Miami has won only one of the six games in its preseason tour — stretching from El Salvador to Dallas into Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong and ending in Tokyo. The team’s final warmup match is scheduled for Feb. 16 in Florida against Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s boyhood club from Rosario, Argentina.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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