Sporting authorities in Hangzhou and Beijing have announced the cancellation of upcoming international friendlies involving the Argentine national football team. The cancellations affect matches against Nigeria, scheduled in Hangzhou, and Ivory Coast, set to take place in Beijing next month. These decisions stem from the fallout over Lionel Messi’s absence from a recent exhibition match in Hong Kong, involving Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami and a Hong Kong XI team, which has led to significant backlash.
The controversy began when Messi, despite being one of the most anticipated participants, did not appear in the friendly match in Hong Kong, causing disappointment and anger among fans who had purchased tickets expecting to see the World Cup winner in action. In response to the upset, Tatler Asia, the organizer of the Hong Kong match, offered a 50% refund to attendees. Messi’s subsequent participation in a match in Japan just a few days later only added to the frustration.
The Hangzhou Sports Bureau, in a statement regarding the Argentina vs. Nigeria game, cited “the current well-known reasons” and advice from “competent authorities” that conditions were not suitable for hosting the match, leading to its cancellation. Similarly, the Beijing Football Association announced the cancellation of the Argentina vs. Ivory Coast friendly shortly thereafter, aligning with the decision made by Hangzhou’s sporting officials.