Argentina’s two friendlies in China have been cancelled amid an ongoing dispute after Lionel Messi’s no-show in Hong Kong.
The Athletic reported on Friday March’s friendlies versus Nigeria and Ivory Coast could be moved after Messi failed to appear in an Inter Miami friendly against the Hong Kong XI.
A source at the Argentina Football Association (AFA) with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Athletic the fixtures have been cancelled, with other destinations in Asia and the United States under consideration to host the two games.
The AFA announced in January that Argentina would face Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing during their tour of Asia in March’s international break, however local authorities have since confirmed the cancellation of both fixtures.
A statement from the Hangzhou sports bureau read: “As a commercial event, a company negotiated with the Argentine football team to come to Hangzhou for a friendly match in March this year. In view of the well-known reasons, it is understood from the competent authorities that the conditions for holding the event are not met, and the decision has been made to cancel the event.”
The Hong Kong government expressed their disappointment after Messi did not play against the Hong Kong XI last Sunday. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner was ruled out of the match with an adductor injury. On Wednesday, Messi played 30 minutes against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo, which was deemed a “deliberate and calculated snub” by the Hong Kong government.
“However three days later, Messi was able to play actively and freely in Japan…the government hopes the organizers and teams can provide reasonable explanations.”
The promoters who organized the match in Hong Kong, Tatler Asia, said in a statement that the 40,000 fans who attended the Inter Miami match last Sunday would be entitled to a 50 percent refund. Inter Miami will play one more friendly match on February 15 in Fort Lauderdale against Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s childhood club.
The MLS regular season begins six days later, with Inter Miami facing Real Salt Lake at DRV PNK Stadium.
(Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)