(Hong Kong) The organizer of the Inter Miami friendly match in Hong Kong had committed to playing Lionel Messi for at least 45 minutes, the Hong Kong Sports Minister revealed on Monday, after the absence of the Argentinian superstar aroused public fury.
Questioned, Tatler Asia regretted in a press release published Monday the absence of the Argentinian, and announced that it would renounce public funding in the amount of 1.9 million euros.
The CEO of Tatler Asia has indeed confirmed that Messi is under contract to enter the field, barring injury.
However, the captain of the world champion Argentina team officially suffers from a strained hamstring, and he remained on the bench for the entire duration of the friendly match won 4-1 against a Hong Kong selection on Sunday.
His package angered the 38,323 spectators who had paid a minimum of $125, and in many cases five times more, to see their idol in action.
The chants of “pay it back!” » and the screams crescendoed until the final whistle when Englishman David Beckham, co-owner of the Miami club, was drowned out by boos when he tried to thank the crowd.
“Tatler Asia deeply regrets the disappointing end” to what could have been a “great opportunity,” said Michel Lamuniere, president and CEO, in the press release.
He added that the organizer had “decided to officially withdraw its request for a government grant” of 1.9 million euros.
The Hong Kong government issued two consecutive statements on Sunday evening, saying it was “extremely disappointed” and threatening to withdraw 1.9 million euros in public funding from Tatler Asia, a media outlet specializing in fashion, luxury goods and hobbies.
“One of the key conditions of our funding agreement with Tatler Asia was that Messi participates in the match for at least 45 minutes, subject to fitness and safety considerations,” said Kevin Yeung, Secretary of the culture, sports and tourism of Hong Kong, during a press conference on Monday.
“Yesterday, before the start of the match, the organizer Tatler Asia reaffirmed that Messi was going to play in the second half,” he explained.
Yeung, who attended the match at the stadium with other officials including Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, said the local government tried to negotiate with the organizer when the 36-year-old failed. did not appear on the field at the start of the second half.
Negotiations reached an impasse ten minutes before the end of the match, as “solutions” such as having Messi appear on the pitch to interact with fans and receive the trophy were refused.
At midday Monday, the Hong Kong Consumer Council announced that it had received nearly forty complaints regarding this meeting.