THE Chinese FA have severed ties with the Argentine FA after Lionel Messi missed a friendly in Hong Kong before playing in Japan days later, according to reports.
His appearance in the Wednesday game triggered an outcry from seething football fans and politicians on Hong Kong and China – with some fans reportedly travelling up to 12 hours for the Messi no-show.
A Hong Kong government statement said: “Regarding Messi not playing the match today, the government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organisers’ arrangement.
“The organisers owe all football fans an explanation.”
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Chinese state-controlled media Global Times suggested an air of favouritism to other countries in the region over China due to the game being the only one Messi missed on the Asia tour.
The situation has been a trending topic on Chinese social media site Weibo, with The Guardian reporting it has taken up to half of the top ten trending topics.
And the bitter feeling has also extended to boardroom, with Chinese footballer reporter Xu Zexin claiming the Chinese FA have “suspended relevant cooperation with the Argentine Football Association, including the Argentine national team”.
Zexin’s report adds the Chinese FA have removed all Messi related content from their official website.
Minutes before the game against J-League champions Vissel Kobe, Messi issued an apology on Weibo.
He said: “Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to play… especially in these games where we travel so far and people are excited to see our games.
“Hopefully we can come back and play a game in Hong Kong.”
Inter manager Tata Martino told reporters the decision to play Messi was only made following a training session the day before.
The match in Hong Kong attracted 40,000 fans, with some paying HK$5,000 ($507) a ticket according to the Global Times, while the game in Japan saw 28,614 tickets sold at the Japan National Stadium.
The Times add there has been 547 complaints submitted to the Consumer Council of Hong Kong relating to Messi.
The former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain star was blasted by fans after he was spotted laughing when a team-mate missed a penalty.
Hong Kong was handed back to the Republic of China in 1997 from the United Kingdom when a 99-year lease expired.