Fans to receive refunds following Lionel Messi's absence in Hong Kong friendly

A muscle injury kept Messi from taking playing against a Hong Kong XI

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi, center, looks on after the first half of the friendly football match between Hong Kong Team and US Inter Miami CF at the Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Louise Delmotte)

Fans who attended Sunday's Lionel Messi-less friendly between a Hong Kong XI and Inter Miami will receive 50% refunds after Messi did not play due to injury.

Tatler Asia, the publication that organized the friendly, responded to backlash from the Hong Kong government and Chinese state media by offering the refunds, which will come to about $7 million in total.

“We apologise to all those who were disappointed by the football match between the Hong Kong Team and Inter Miami CF on Sunday, February 4th. An event that we had hoped to be the pride of the city, and which we have worked very hard on for months, has become the source of great heartbreak,” the company said in a statement.

The statement went on to say that the event organizers were guaranteed that Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquet and Luis Suárez would play at least 45 minutes of the game unless they were injured. Suárez was also hurt and did not play.

In a statement sent to Reuters on Thursday, Inter Miami apologized for holding out Messi and Suárez.

"Despite our best intentions, we understand there has been disappointment over the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez in Sunday's match and we are sorry that the two players could not participate.

"We also recognize that the late decision caused frustration among our Hong Kong supporters and the event promoter, Tatler Asia. We do feel it necessary to express that injuries are unfortunately a part of the beautiful game, and our player's health must always come first."

Suárez has been dealing with a knee injury and Messi has been working through an adductor injury he suffered at the beginning of preseason.

After missing Sunday's friendly in Hong Kong, Messi did play the final 30 minutes against J-League side Vissel Kobe in Japan after saying he hoped to take part in the final game of the Asian tour.

The fallout continued on Friday when Chinese sporting authorities said the international friendly between Argentina and Nigeria that was set to take place in March is off.

Messi and Argentina were to play Nigeria in Hangzhou and then head to Beijing to face the Ivory Coast.

"As a commercial event, a company and the Argentinean soccer team negotiated that the team would play a friendly match in March this year in the city of Hangzhou," Hangzhou authorities said in a statement via Reuters. "In view of the current well-known reasons, according to the competent authorities, conditions to hold the friendly match are not mature, therefore (we) have decided to cancel it."

There has not been word if the game in Beijing will go on.

Inter Miami are now home preparing for their final preseason match against Argentinian side Newell's Old Boys on Feb. 15 before they begin their MLS schedule on Feb. 21 against Real Salt Lake.