Argentina vs Nigeria friendly cancelled amid Lionel Messi controversy

Argentina vs Nigeria friendly cancelled amid Lionel Messi controversy

  • Chinese sporting authorities have cancelled the upcoming friendly international match between Argentina and Nigeria.
  • The decision is directly linked to the escalating discontent following Lionel Messi's absence from an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong last week.

Argentina was initially scheduled to play Nigeria in the Chinese city of Hangzhou next month, followed by a match against the Ivory Coast in Beijing.

However, Messi's failure to take the field during the Inter Miami game in Hong Kong triggered widespread anger among fans.

Despite expectations for Messi to make at least a brief appearance on the pitch, the World Cup winner remained on the bench during their 4-1 victory against Hong Kong All-Stars.

In response to the disappointment, the organizers announced a 50% refund for tickets, citing Messi's non-participation due to injury.

Miami's coach, Martino, clarified that the club's medical team had made the decision to keep Messi out of the game in Hong Kong.

Messi himself apologised to Chinese fans, citing discomfort from his injury.

However, tensions reignited when Messi played in Japan a few days later, intensifying the backlash.

China's state-controlled Global Times launched a fresh attack on Messi, accusing him of having 'political motives' and aiming to 'embarrass' Hong Kong after participating in the Inter Miami match in Japan.

The event organisers labeled Messi's return to play in Japan as 'another slap in the face.'

The backlash peaked on Friday, with Hangzhou sports authorities officially declaring the cancellation of Argentina's friendly against Nigeria.

In a statement, they expressed extreme disappointment with the organiser's handling of Messi's non-participation.

Meanwhile, Nigeria are currently competing in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire, where they have reached the final.

The Super Eagles are set to face hosts Cote d'Ivoire on Sunday, aiming to secure their fourth AFCON title amidst the backdrop of the cancelled Argentina friendly.

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