Messi Apologizes for Hong Kong Absence, Denies Political Motives

Messi Apologizes for Hong Kong Absence, Denies Political Motives

Lionel Messi, the legendary Argentine footballer, has been embroiled in a public relations crisis in China and Hong Kong following his absence from an exhibition match in Hong Kong on February 4. The incident sparked widespread disappointment and criticism, leading to the cancellation of two friendly matches in China and a barrage of negative comments on Chinese social media.

In an attempt to address the controversy, Messi released a video message on Chinese social media platform Weibo on February 19, explaining his decision not to play in Hong Kong. He vehemently denied any political motivations behind his absence, stating that he had a legitimate groin injury that prevented him from participating in the match.

Messi emphasized that he has a deep connection with China and its fans, having visited the country numerous times and expressing his admiration for its culture. He expressed regret for the disappointment caused by his absence and assured fans that he would never intentionally disrespect them.

Despite Messi's apology, the damage to his reputation in China appears to be significant. The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, published an editorial suggesting that Messi's actions were politically motivated and aimed at embarrassing Hong Kong. This sentiment was echoed by many Chinese netizens, who expressed their anger and disappointment on social media.

The fallout from the incident has resulted in the cancellation of two friendly matches involving Argentina in China. The sports bureau in Hangzhou canceled a match between Nigeria and Argentina, while the Beijing Football Association announced that the city had no plans to organize matches involving Messi.

The organizer of the Hong Kong match, Tatler Asia, has apologized for the disappointment caused by Messi's absence and offered a 50% refund to ticket holders. The organizer stated that it would refund a total of 56 million Hong Kong dollars ($7.2 million), resulting in a loss of 43 million Hong Kong dollars ($5.5 million).

Messi's attempt to address the PR disaster remains to be seen. It is unclear whether his apology will be enough to appease Chinese fans and restore his popularity in the country. The incident highlights the challenges faced by international athletes and celebrities when navigating the complex political and cultural landscape of China.

Tags: #LionelMessi, #HongKong, #China, #Football, #ExhibitionMatch

Read more