Messi fans to get refunds for no-show match in HK

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Lionel Messi (second from right) remained on the bench throughout the friendly game between Inter Miami and the Hong Kong teamImage source, Getty Images

Lionel Messi’s Hong Kong fans who bought tickets to a friendly that he skipped at the last minute will get a 50% refund, the match organiser said.

Messi’s absence from the game in February, which he blamed on an injury, sent Chinse fans seething for weeks.

Ticketholders applying for refunds must agree not to pursue legal action, Tatler Asia said.

The refunds could cost up to HK$56m (£5.6m; $7.1m), the publication said.

Fans had paid up to HK$4,880 each to watch the 36-year-old Argentine footballer but Messi remained on the bench throughout the match.

Some 38,000 spectators at the sold-out Hong Kong Stadium booed and demanded refunds at the end of the game.

Tatler Asia had said it was told only at halftime that Messi would not be playing and that they “immediately” informed the government about it.

Hong Kong authorities said they requested Messi to “explore other remedies” such as appearing on the field to interact with fans but to no avail.

Messi played in Japan days after. He said he regretted not being able to play in Hong Kong due to a “swollen and painful” groin injury.

This only enraged his fans further and fuelled conspiracy theories. State media outlet Global Times accused the footballer and his club Inter Miami of “political motives” with the aim of “embarrassing” Hong Kong.

Messi rejected these claims, stressing that he holds a “special affection” for the people of China.

The backlash against him lasted for weeks and saw Chinese officials cancelling two Argentine friendlies due to take place in the country this month.

This stood in contrast to the roaring welcome Messi received in June last year, when Argentina played Australia in a friendly at the Beijing’s Worker’s Stadium.

Tatler Asia said those seeking refunds would have to accept certain conditions, which include not pursuing “proceedings before any court of law, tribunal [or] regulatory authority”.

Under fire for its handling of the event, it also withdrew its application for a HK$16m government grant.

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