Argentina tour of China cancelled over Messi no-show row

Both of Argentina‘s planned friendlies in China have been cancelled by local authorities after  Lionel Messi did not play in an  Inter Miami match in Hong Kong last weekend.

Beijing’s football association said on Saturday that it would not organise Argentina’s scheduled friendly clash against the Ivory Coast in March. The news comes a day after  Hangzhou’s sports authorities also cancelled a friendly between Argentina and  Nigeria.

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Messi’s failure to play in Hong Kong on Sunday  caused widespread anger among fans, with China’s state-controlled Global Times saying the “impact of this incident has far exceeded the realm of sports.”

The Beijing Football Association said in a statement to local media: “Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate.”

Organisers of the Hong Kong friendly, Tatler Asia, announced a 50% refund on tickets, which cost up to nearly HK$ 5000 ($639), following criticism from the Hong Kong government.

Inter Miami has won only one of the six games in its preseason tour — stretching from El Salvador to Dallas into Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong and ending in Tokyo. The team’s final warmup match is scheduled for Feb. 16 in Florida against Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s boyhood club from Rosario, Argentina.

Information from Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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