Hong Kong fans seethe, Messi plays for Miami in Tokyo


Agency :
After leaving fans guessing about whether or not he would take to the pitch, Lionel Messi came on in the 60th minute in Inter Miami’s friendly match in Tokyo on Wednesday, thrilling locals but angering fans in Hong Kong, where he failed to play at a weekend game.

The 36-year-old’s no-show at the highly anticipated match in Hong Kong on Sunday caused a furore that has shown no sign of waning, with fans still demanding answers and a refund three days on.
Inter Miami’s opponent, J-League champion Vissel Kobe, won Wednesday’s match 4-3 in a penalty shootout after 90 minutes of play ended in a 0-0 draw. Messi, a record eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, did not take part in the shootout.
While the sold-out match in Hong Kong drew 40,000 fans, the Japan National Stadium was less than half full with just 28,614 in attendance.
“I couldn’t help but start laughing when (Luis) Suarez, (Sergio) Busquets, (Jordi) Alba – all main players – were in the game,” Tweety, a Hong Kong resident who watched Wednesday’s match online, told Reuters.
“Messi really likes the Japanese fans more by playing 30 minutes.”
With no Messi on the pitch for the first half, the silence at the Tokyo stadium was deafening at times during the mostly uninspiring match.
The loudest cheers erupted when the Argentine World Cup winner’s face was shown on the big screen as he sat on the bench. The mood shifted palpably when he started warming up shortly after halftime, and even more once he took to the field.
“It was thrilling,” said Chris Mohler, an American living in Tokyo. “The second half with Messi coming in, you could just feel like a jolt of electricity to go through the place.”
Another fan, 47-year-old Australian Benson Looi, who moved to Tokyo from Hong Kong five years ago, shared the sentiment.
“(My friends in Hong Kong) were all very disappointed. And I think so was the rest of Hong Kong. So yeah, sorry Hong Kong. But it was awesome (today). It was amazing.”
Some fans in Hong Kong lashed out at the perceived injustice, commenting on Inter Miami’s YouTube livestream posting: “Refund refund refund refund refund.”