Argentine captain and World Cup winner, Lionel Messi, is not enjoying the best pre-season warm up for MLS side Inter Miami’s as they prepare for their 2024 campaign, but having not featured in a recent friendly and been subject to spectator booing, the 36 year old former Barcelona legend has taken the unexpected step of going public to explain the situation.
Having sustained a hamstring injury in their previous friendly, Messi remained on the bench as Inter beat a Hong Kong select League XI in front of almost 40,000 fans on Sunday, and they certainly were not happy about it, booing their disgust at his lack of involvement and chanting ‘Refund’ in their disappointment. Even co-owner and former England international David Beckham was drowned out with jeers when he tried to give a speech and thank supporters for attending at the full time whistle.
Even Hong Kong’s government got involved given the reaction of locals, stating that Messi was contracted to play at least 45 minutes, and their major sports events committee (MSEC) cited that they were ‘extremely disappointed’ that the terms were not met given they had provided grants of £1.5 million to organisers Tatler Asia so the game could go ahead. Tatler Asia have already said they will not be asking for the money given Messi did not play.
Now, spectators did pay in general more than £101 for a ticket to the match, and Messi would have naturally been a huge draw on that. However, the entitlement in football is getting ridiculous. You do not pay the ticket price with an entitlement to see a particular player, nor to watch a specific guaranteed result play out.
We have seen rumblings of it in the English game with weakened sides put out in Cup competitions where ticket prices did not reflect that approach to the competition – so it is only natural that as clubs more ignore local, truer fans, and play to foreign markets, namely for money, who have truly specific interests that outweigh the team, they open themselves to this increased entitlement, and this kind of obligation that X player is guaranteed to perform for you when you pay £101 for a ticket.
“I always want to play, especially in these games where we travel so far and people want to see our games. Unfortunately this happens in football. In any game it can happen that you can’t play. I hope we can return and play a game in Hong Kong.”
That entitlement and that obligation can never apply in a sport – Messi only played six odd minutes in the previous game in Saudi Arabia, so this is not a public relations injury stunt for effect. He did not play so he could recover and not make the issue worse, no ticket price would change that fact, and whilst the disappointment is understandable – they paid to watch a team, not a one man show.