Thousands of soccer fans in Hong Kong were left disappointed when Argentine superstar Lionel Messi failed to take to the field in a friendly match for Inter Miami on Sunday.
What started with overwhelming cheers and rapture ended in boos and calls for refunds in the sold-out, 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.
Inter Miami — out to prove a point having gone winless during a worldwide pre-season tour — comfortably defeated a Hong Kong XI 4-1 in an event branded as Tatler XFEST Hong Kong.
But even in the lead-up to and during the game, there was the sense that the scoreline did not matter to fans; more important was witnessing Messi, a World Cup champion and eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, grace the field.
Even Hong Kong’s government has shared its dismay at the 36-year-old not featuring in the match.
“Messi was not able to play in the friendly game today and the government and fans are equally disappointed at the arrangements by the event organiser,” it said in a statement on Sunday. “The event organiser owes fans an explanation.”
New signing Luis Suárez also did not feature despite attending the pre-match press conference, while other marquee players Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets were only substituted on in the second half.