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Inter Miami Triumph Marred by Messi’s Absence
- Updated: February 5, 2024
Inter Miami secured their first preseason victory with a 4-1 win against Hong Kong XI, but the absence of star player Lionel Messi disappointed fans and sparked criticism from the Hong Kong government. Messi, reportedly dealing with a hamstring injury, was expected to feature, but he remained on the bench. Spectators chanted for a refund, and the government expressed disappointment, hinting at a possible reduction in funding for the event. Inter Miami coach Gerardo Martino defended the decision, citing Messi’s adductor swelling and Luis Suárez’s knee problem as risks for aggravation.
The match, which received 15 million Hong Kong dollars ($1.92 million) in funding from the Major Sports Events Committee, faced scrutiny as Messi and Suárez, along with Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, started on the bench. The disappointment led to potential consequences for the event organizers, Tatler Asia.
The Hong Kong government released a statement expressing its disappointment and indicating that the committee might reduce funding due to Messi’s non-participation. Spectators were vocal about their discontent, chanting for a refund. The organizers, Tatler Asia, expressed their own disappointment, claiming they expected Messi and Suárez to play and were unaware of their non-participation until kick-off. They cited the team’s medical department deeming Messi and Suárez unfit to play.
Coach Martino supported the decision, emphasizing the risk of exacerbating Messi’s adductor swelling and Suárez’s knee issue. Despite understanding the fans’ disappointment, Martino prioritized the players’ well-being and acknowledged the absence of the star duo affected the match atmosphere.
Inter Miami took the lead with Robert Taylor’s goal in the 40th minute, but Henri Anier equalized for Hong Kong XI just three minutes later. Lawson Sunderland and Leonardo Campana secured a 3-1 lead for Inter Miami before Ryan Sailor’s glancing header sealed a 4-1 victory. The introduction of Busquets and Alba in the second half bolstered Inter Miami’s control of the game.
This win marked Inter Miami’s first in five preseason games, following defeats to FC Dallas, Al Hilal, and a 6-0 loss to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, where the Portuguese forward was absent due to a calf injury.
The article encapsulates the mixed emotions of Inter Miami’s victory, overshadowed by Messi’s absence and the subsequent disappointment expressed by fans and the Hong Kong government. Coach Martino’s defense of the decision, the organizers’ statements, and the match analysis contribute to the comprehensive coverage of the event.
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By- Sahiba Suri