Organizer of a highly anticipated Inter Miami match in Hong Kong last week, which was expected to feature Lionel Messi (36), has announced a 50% refund for tickets following widespread disappointment that the Argentine player did not take the field due to injury but participated in a match in Japan a few days later.
Tatler Asia, a privately owned publishing and lifestyle company, issued a statement on its Instagram page expressing deep regret and sorrow for letting down fans after Messi remained on the bench during Sunday’s match.
The match in Hong Kong attracted 40,000 fans, with some paying nearly HK$5,000 ($640) per ticket. Tatler announced that all matchday tickets purchased from official channels are eligible for a 50% refund, adding that discussions have been underway with the Hong Kong government to address the matter.
Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino stated that Messi was considered unfit to play in the friendly match in Hong Kong, but he did come on as a substitute in the 60th minute during the match against Vissel Kobe on Wednesday.
“When we learned that Messi would not be playing, we pleaded with Inter Miami CF ownership and management to urge him to stand up, engage with the spectators and explain why he couldn’t play,” Tatler said.
“He didn’t. The fact that Messi and (Luis) Suarez played in Japan on February 7 feels like another slap in the face.”
During the match in Tokyo, large sections of seating at the Japan National Stadium were left vacant, with only 28,614 tickets being sold.
Chinese state media, along with Hong Kong politicians and certain fans, promptly criticised Messi’s involvement in the Japan match. The state-controlled Global Times highlighted Messi’s absence, raising concerns about unequal treatment in Hong Kong.
In response, the Hong Kong government issued a statement acknowledging the refund offered by Tatler Asia. It noted that the refund demonstrated the organizer’s commitment to addressing the situation, emphasising that many individuals had queries regarding the incident.
“The government hopes that the Inter Miami team will eventually provide a reasonable explanation to Hong Kong citizens and fans who came to Hong Kong to watch the game.”
Tatler Asia said Inter Miami had committed to ensuring that their top players, including Messi and Uruguay’s Suarez, would play for 45 minutes unless injured.
It said it had hoped to create an iconic moment in support of the government’s efforts to remind the world how relevant and exciting Hong Kong is.
“That dream is broken today for us and all those who bought tickets to see Messi on the pitch.”