China cancels Argentina games amid Messi backlash

 
Lionel Messi of Inter Miami looks on prior to the preseason friendly match between Vissel Kobe and Inter Miami at National Stadium on February 07, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan.

Chinese officials have cancelled two Argentina friendlies that were due to take place in the Asian country after Lionel Messi did not play for Inter Miami in a match in Hong Kong.

The world champions were set to face Nigeria in Hangzhou and the Ivory Coast in Beijing in March.

Fans in China were angered when the Argentina captain did not play for his club against a Hong Kong XI on Sunday.

Messi, 36, said he could not play because of a groin injury.

However, his non-appearance drew widespread criticism in China when he then featured off the bench three days later against Vissel Kobe in Japan.

"Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate," the Beijing Football Association said on Saturday.

When the Hangzhou match was cancelled on Friday their sports bureau said: "Given the reasons that everyone knows, according to the competent authorities, the conditions for the event to take place are not met."

Fans in Hong Kong jeered Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham and chanted for their money back after Messi did not take to the pitch.

They have since been promised a 50% refund by match organisers Tatler Asia.

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