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Fans angry as Messi remains on bench in friendly

Published on February 5, 2024
Updated on February 6, 2024
Written by Chris

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Fans angry as Messi remains on bench in friendly
  • Messi remains on bench due to injury
  • Suarez also sidelined
  • Fans chant for refund

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Fans vent frustration as Messi and Suarez miss out with injury

Angry fans in Hong Kong voiced their frustration during a pre-season friendly match involving Inter Miami, as superstar Lionel Messi remained benched due to injury.

The highly anticipated encounter, which saw Inter Miami triumph 4-1 against a local League XI, drew nearly 40,000 spectators. However, the absence of Messi, who was nursing a hamstring injury, left fans discontented. Their discontent was palpable through chants demanding refunds and drowning out a speech by Inter co-owner David Beckham.

The Hong Kong government expressed its disappointment, highlighting that Messi was contractually obligated to play at least 45 minutes. Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong’s secretary for culture, sports, and tourism, emphasised that officials were repeatedly assured of Messi’s participation, only to be informed of his inability to play just 10 minutes before the match concluded.

Efforts to salvage the situation, such as having Messi interact with fans or receive the trophy, were futile. The government’s major sports events committee (MSEC) demanded an explanation from the organisers, Tatler Asia, who had received substantial funding for the event.

Tatler Asia, in response, expressed regret and announced the withdrawal of their application for a government grant, citing Messi’s absence. Despite fans paying upwards of 1,000 Hong Kong dollars per ticket, the absence of Messi and Luis Suarez, sidelined due to a knee injury, intensified the disappointment.

The crowd’s frustration peaked during the match, with chants for Messi growing louder as he watched from the bench. Even Beckham faced jeers when attempting to thank supporters post-match.

Organisers clarified that they were unaware of Messi and Suarez’s unavailability before kick-off, deferring to the decisions made by the players’ medical teams.

Inter Miami’s manager, Gerardo Martino, defended the decision, stressing the risks associated with Messi and Suarez playing despite the fans’ disappointment.

Inter Miami favourites for MLS Cup

At the time of writing Inter Miami, who boast Messi, Suarez and their ex Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, are favourites to win the MLS Cup in the coming season.

At the time of writing, bet365 have Inter Miami priced at 11/4

MLS Schedule 2024

Pre-season matches: January 19 through February 17

Regular season starts: February 21

Regular season ends: October 19

Playoffs start: Late October

MLS Cup: December 7

The regular season is scheduled to begin on February 21 and end on October 19. It will be paused from mid-July to mid-August for the 2024 Leagues Cup, which comprises all MLS and Liga MX teams. The 2024 MLS Cup Playoffs are scheduled to begin in October and conclude with MLS Cup 2024 on December 7.

Inter Miami kick the season off when they play Real Salt Lake on February 21, local time. The match starts at 1:00 UK time on February 22.

Lionel Messi: Career stats

Messi is rated by many pundits as the greatest player in history, therefore many fans in Hong Kong had bought tickets for the friendly match specifically to see the Argentine play. Here are a number of key stats from Messi’s career.

Lionel Messi: Career goals

At the time of writing, Messi has scored 827 senior goals for club and country. 

Lionel Messi Barcelona goals

Messi is Barcelona’s record goalscorer and has scored 672 goals for Barcelona. He has scored a further six goals for Barcelona B.

Lionel Messi: La Liga goals

Messi is the all time leading scorer in La Liga, with 474 goals.

Lionel Messi Champions League goals

Messi is the second highest goalscorer in the Champions League, with 129 goals. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, with 140 has scored more.

Lionel Messi International Caps

Messi has 178 international caps for Argentina.

Lionel Messi International goals

Messi has scored 106 goals for Argentina.

LIonel Messi International Records

Most Argentina caps: 178.
Most Argentina goals: 106.
Most caps for South American nation: 178.
Most goals for South American nation: 106.
Youngest Argentinian to score at a World Cup: 18 years 357 days.
First player to score in four different World Cup tournaments for Argentina.

Lionel Messi Ballon d’Or

Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record eight times

Lionel Messi: Career honours

10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, seven Copa del Reys, three FIFA Club World Cups, one Ligue 1 , one FIFA World Cup, one Copa America.


La Liga: 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19

Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2020–21

Supercopa de España: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018

UEFA Champions League: 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2014–15

UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015

FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015

Paris Saint-Germain

Ligue 1: 2021–22, 2022–23

Trophée des Champions: 2022

Inter Miami

Leagues Cup: 2023

Argentina U20

FIFA World Youth Championship: 2005

Argentina U23

Olympic Gold Medal: 2008


FIFA World Cup: 2022

Copa América: 2021

CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions: 2022

Lionel Messi: Other awards and milestones

FIFA World Player of the Year: 2009

The Best FIFA Men’s Player: 2019,] 2022, 2023

European Golden Shoe: 2009–10, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018–19

FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 2014, 2022

FIFA World Cup Silver Boot: 2022

FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball: 2009, 2011

FIFA U-20 World Cup Golden Ball: 2005

FIFA U-20 World Cup Golden Boot: 2005

UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2008–09

UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award: 2010–11, 2014–15

UEFA Champions League top scorer: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2018–19

Copa América Best Player: 2015, 2021

Copa América Top Goalscorer: 2021

La Liga Best Player: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2014–15

Pichichi Trophy: 2009−10, 2011–12, 2012−13, 2016–17, 2017−18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: 2020, 2023

Argentine Sportsperson of the Year: 2011, 2021, 2022, 2023

Argentine Footballer of the Year: 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

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Chris is a former athlete and a qualified PE teacher. He is a keen football fan, watching many matches at different levels throughout the season, and enjoys following many different sports. With betting and sports sites, he has a keen eye for detail and can to highlight positives and negatives for users. His experience in sport as a performer, teacher, writer and fan allows him to see things from many different perspectives. Editorial Promise