HONG KONG (AP) — The fallout from Lionel Messi’s failure to play in a club exhibition match in Hong Kong has spread with both of Argentina’s friendly matches as part of a tour of mainland China next month canceled by local football authorities.
The Beijing Football Association said on Saturday it would not organize Argentina’s scheduled friendly against Ivory Coast in Beijing in March, reportedly saying to local media: “Beijing does not plan, for the moment, to organise the match in which Lionel Messi was to participate.”
The news comes a day after Chinese sports authorities canceled Argentina’s scheduled exhibition match against Nigeria.
World Cup champion Argentina, captained by Messi, last month scheduled a tour of China during the international break from March 18-26 with games lined up against Nigeria in Hangzhou and Ivory Coast in Beijing.
But Messi, on tour with his Inter Miami club, outraged fans in Hong Kong when he didn’t play against a local selection last Sunday and remained on the bench. Messi said he had a groin injury. But his excuse didn’t wash in Hong Kong after he played for 30 minutes on Wednesday in Tokyo against Vissel Kobe.
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