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Hong Kong fans to get 50% refund for Messi no-show match

By William Xu in Hong Kong | | Updated: 2024-02-09 18:06
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Fans react during the friendly soccer match between the Hong Kong Team and US Inter Miami CF at the Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong, after superstar Lionel Messi sat on the bench throughout the whole game on Feb 4, 2024. [Photo by ANDY CHONG/CHINA DAILY]

Thousands of soccer fans, some of whom had reportedly paid up to HK$5,000 ($639) to watch an exhibition match in Hong Kong in which Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi failed to play, can get a 50-percent refund on their tickets.

Details of the reimbursement will be revealed before the middle of next month.

Tatler Asia, which organized the event held at Hong Kong Stadium on Feb 4, announced the decision on Friday following a public uproar over Messi's no-show, and the special administrative region government's condemnation of the organizer's handling of the event.

The incident has infuriated the SAR, with more than 1,300 complaints having been lodged with the Consumer Council so far, demanding refunds or compensations.

The matter was further inflamed when Messi took to the pitch in another friendly match in Tokyo on Wednesday – three days after his no-show in Hong Kong.

Messi's Inter Miami CF team had a friendly match with Hong Kong players at Hong Kong Stadium on Feb 4, drawing nearly 40,000 local and overseas spectators. However, the Argentinian World Cup captain sat on the bench throughout the entire match due to a claimed muscle problem.

His failure to play in the game sparked fury among Hong Kong fans and residents, with spectators taking their grievances to the city's consumer watchdog.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Tatler Asia apologized for the incident, saying that all those who had purchased tickets for the match through official channels will receive a 50-percent refund, and the arrangements will be announced by mid-March.

Inter Miami had promised in the contract that prominent players in its line-up, including Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez, would need to play at least 45 minutes in the Hong Kong friendly unless they were injured, Tatler said. However, the organizer was told at the end of the match that Messi and Suárez were unable to play.

The statement also said Tatler had demanded that Inter Miami's management urge Messi to appear in front of the fans to personally explain the reason for his no-show, but failed.

The company said it has been in constant communication with the SAR government in the hope of resolving the matter, and would not shirk its responsibility as the organizer.

Responding to Tatler's announcement, an SAR government spokesperson described the compensation plan as responsible, showing the organizer's positive commitment attitude.

The promise of a 50-percent refund on the tickets demonstrates Tatler Asia's sincerity in responding to the demands of various sectors of Hong Kong's community, the spokesperson said.

But, Hong Kong people are still perplexed about Messi's failure to play in the Hong Kong match, especially after he had played in the Japan game three days after the Hong Kong incident. The SAR government hopes Inter Miami can give a reasonable explanation to Hong Kong people, as well as soccer fans who had come to the city from abroad to watch the game.

Also on Friday, Inter Miami has apologized for Messi's Hong Kong absence and said it understands that fans are disappointed.

In a statement, the soccer team said its medical staff members assessed at the time that it was too risky for Messi and Suárez to play, admitting the belated decision had upset fans and disappointed organizers.

The team said it will be eager to return to Hong Kong if fans are willing to host them again.

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