Soccer-Beijing cancels Argentina friendly as Messi fallout continues

By Thomson Reuters Feb 10, 2024 | 8:35 AM

(Reuters) – Argentina’s friendly against Ivory Coast, scheduled to be held in Beijing in March, has been cancelled, the Chinese city’s football association said on Saturday, following a backlash against Lionel Messi’s failure to play in a match in Hong Kong.

Beijing’s announcement came a day after Hangzhou’s sports authorities also cancelled a friendly between Argentina and Nigeria after Messi’s failure to play for Inter Miami in Hong Kong on Sunday caused widespread anger among fans.

“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 statement to local media.

Messi, who did not play in the friendly in Hong Kong due to a reported injury, appeared as a second-half substitute on Wednesday in Inter Miami’s 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.

($1 = 7.8197 Hong Kong dollars)

(Reporting by Chiranjit Ojha in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)