Latest: Hong Kong fans burn as Inter Miami star sets Japan on fire
NBS Webdesk

Lionel Messi gestures during a match. — AFP/File

Lionel Messi participated in a friendly against Japan after skipping a game in Hong Kong, infuriating Chinese supporters and igniting a conspiracy theory.

With the intention of “embarrassing” Hong Kong, the football player and his team Inter Miami were accused of having “political motives” by the state media outlet Global Times, according to BBC.

With an injury, Messi stayed off the field for Sunday’s game in the Chinese special administrative area.

Some supporters questioned if he had been hurt after Wednesday’s game in Tokyo.

Messi was greeted like a rock hero in Beijing just a year ago when he represented his nation in a friendly match against Australia. Approximately 68,000 spectators spent up to $680 to witness him perform. In addition, he serves as a spokesperson for major Chinese companies like J&T Express, Huawei, Chery, Tencent, Mengniu, and Chishui River Wine.

Hong Kong’s secretary for culture, sports, and tourism, Kevin Yeung, said that government representatives had been informed on multiple occasions that Messi would play. However, they were told with ten minutes remaining in the game that he would not be able to play due to a hamstring adductor injury.

“We immediately requested them to explore other remedies, such as Messi appearing on the field to interact with his fans and receiving the trophy,” Yeung said.

“Unfortunately, as you all see, this did not work out,” he added.

John Lee, the chief executive of the territory, expressed his deep disappointment with Messi’s absence and demanded an explanation from the match’s organisers.

Other officials like Hong Kong lawmaker Regina Ip also reacted with fury, claiming that “Hong Kong people hate Messi, Inter-Miami, and the black hand behind them” for the “deliberate and calculated snub”.

“Messi should never be allowed to return to Hong Kong. His lies and hypocrisy are disgusting,” she added.

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