Ho Kwok Wing / Gregory Charles Rivers
Time to cross

Man decides not to play in football match

I was walking through a shopping mall on Sunday afternoon and the big screen was showing football.

Open for BusinessHong Kong is back back back.  Inter Miami CF are in town.  The game is a sell-out. The government is delighted, and have grand plans to show Lionel Messi around the city.  Chief Executive Lee Ka-chiu will be at the game to meet Messi.

We are told that Messi is guaranteed to play at least 45 minutes. 

Unless he is injured. 

And what are the chances that a 36 year-old footballer would miss a pre-season friendly due to injury?  No need to worry about that.

Except that...Messi turns out to be injured.  Oh no.  And Luis Suarez spends the game standing on the touchline.  

Never mind, lots of other footballers are playing for Miami.  There are goals, scored by Robert Taylor, Lawson Sunderland, Leonardo Campana and Ryan Sailor.  No, me neither.

After the game, naughty old Leo runs away and avoids shaking the hand of Lee Ka-chiu.  He also declines to be shown around the city.

A few days later, Messi and Miami are in Toyko for another pre-season friendly.  It's not a sell-out, the government is not involved, and Suarez plays 75 minutes and Messi manages 30 minutes.

SCMP Messi

I've never gone to a game to watch just one player, though I did take a small person to the 2007 Premier League Asia Trophy (in Hong Kong), and the presence of David James was very exciting for him (especially when he saved two penalties).  

But, of course, that tournament wasn't promoted almost entirely on the back of one player.

...who is 36 years old.

...and who has been on a world tour, traveling to El Salvador, Dallas, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Tokyo playing meaningless matches.

If I had paid all that money for a ticket based on a promise that Messi would play, I think I would want at least a partial refund.  However, it seems that the organizers didn't have any real guarantee that Messi would play and so they will not be getting any money back.

Certainly the government is not happy, as per the SCMP

The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau said Hongkongers would be “baffled by this”, and said the city’s residents deserved “a reasonable explanation”.

“The coach of Inter Miami said Messi could not play in Hong Kong because of an injury, but he looked fine in the match in Japan, and was running around for a decent amount of time,” the bureau said.

But real football fans "hating" Messi for not playing?  Don't think so.




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