(CTN News) – Inter Miami’s friendly match in Tokyo on Wednesday saw Lionel Messi come on in the 60th minute, thrilling locals but angering fans in Hong Kong, where he failed to play over the weekend.
Three days after his no-show at the highly anticipated match in Hong Kong, the 36-year-old’s fans are still demanding answers and a refund.
Vissel Kobe, the J-League champion, won Wednesday’s match 4-3 on penalties after 90 minutes of play ended in a 0-0 tie. The shootout did not involve Messi, an eight-time Ballon d’Or winner.
There were 28,614 in attendance at the Japan National Stadium, which was less than half full compared to the sold-out match in Hong Kong.
When (Luis) Suarez, (Sergio) Busquets, (Jordi) Alba, all main players, were in the game, Tweety, a Hong Kong resident who watched the game online, couldn’t help but laugh.
“Messi loves to play for 30 minutes for Japanese fans.”
The Tokyo stadium was deafeningly silent at times during the largely uninspiring first half without Messi on the pitch.
A loud cheer erupted when the Argentine World Cup winner’s face appeared on the big screen. After halftime, the mood changed visibly when he started warming up, and even more when he took the field.
Chris Mohler, an American living in Tokyo, said it was thrilling. With Messi coming in, you could feel an electric jolt go through the stadium.
Another fan, Benson Looi, 47, who moved from Hong Kong to Tokyo five years ago, echoed the sentiment.
I’m sure the rest of Hong Kong was disappointed too. So yeah, sorry Hong Kong. We had a blast today.
Hong Kong fans came out against the perceived injustice, commenting on Inter Miami’s YouTube livestream: “Refund refund refund refund refund refund”.
Reuters reported that even the Hong Kong sports bureau expressed disappointment that Messi did not appear on Sunday.
Messi was injured on February 4, but three days later, he acted freely and played football in Japan, doing a lot of intense sports on the field.
“Hong Kong citizens have a lot of questions.”
Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said the decision to play Messi for 30 minutes came after Tuesday’s training session.
We are grateful to the people of Hong Kong, and we understand their disappointment that Messi could not participate. Despite playing him even for a few minutes, it was an enormous risk.