Beijing punishes Messi? China decides not to hold Argentina's friendlies against AFCON finalists after 'Hong Kong bunk'

Messi's decision to skip the game was seen as "lack of respect shown to the crowd"

lionel-messi-inter-miami-cf (FILE) Inter Miami and Argentina star Lionel Messi

After superstar Lionel Messi skipped Inter Miami CF's friendly tie against Hong Kong XI last Sunday, China reportedly called off two international friendlies featuring Argentina.

According to reports, Messi-led Argentina, the reigning world champions, were scheduled to take on Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing in March. The Chinese decision to cancel the two international friendlies comes after football fans across the country were irked by Messi's decision to opt out of the Hong Kong fixture. The organizers later declared that they will offer a 50% refund to the fans. 

"Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate. Given the reasons that everyone knows, according to the competent authorities, the conditions for the event to take place are not met," the Beijing Football Association was quoted as saying on Saturday by BBC.

The 36-year-old legend cited a groin injury for his no-show in the contest. However, making matters worse, three days after giving the game a slip, Messi featured against J-League's Vissel Kobe in another friendly. The Argentina captain was used as a second-half substitute in the match the Inter Miami lost in penalties.

Messi addressed the widespread disappointment by explaining why he did not play in a news conference in Tokyo.

He also said it was regrettable he could not play in Hong Kong on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. He said in the post that he hoped to return to Hong Kong to play for his fans and go to mainland China to share the joy of football.

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