China’s soccer association has canceled an upcoming friendly match in which Lionel Messi was supposed to appear following a controversial absence from the field in a game in Hong Kong.
Messi, who plays for MLS team Inter Miami, has been at the center of a public outcry in China after the star player was a no-show at a friendly match in Hong Kong on February 4.
The local government criticized Messi for not appearing, citing an injury, to meet the fans.
The Beijing Football Association has said the city will not hold any match where Messi is supposed to play as the controversy around his absence from the Hong Kong match rages.
Messi, who is from Argentina, was set to play in a friendly match against Ivory Coast in the Chinese capital, but, reports said that the Beijing match was not going to take place.
Fans in Hong Kong, who paid as much as $624 to watch Messi play in the match, chanted “refund” after the soccer sensation failed to appear during the game.
Another upcoming friendly match with the Argentinian national soccer team, which was scheduled to take place in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in March, has also been canceled.
Argentina and Nigeria were slated to play a friendly next month, where Messi would have made an appearance.
President of the Hong Kong Football Association, Pui Kwan Kay, criticized Messi for disappointing the fans.
Speaking with journalists, Pui said “Even if he were injured, he should still interact with the sports fans after [the] competition ended. Dissatisfaction could have been easily dispelled if he had just said ‘sorry.’ But he didn’t even make the effort. How do you think the 38,000 fans at the stadium and those watching on TV perceived his actions?”
Hong Kong’s secretary for culture, sports and tourism, Kevin Yeung, said recently that the local government had tried to arrange for Messi to meet the fans during the match.