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Soccer legend Messi explains again his Hong Kong sit-out in video

‘I’ve had a very close and special relationship with China,’ the Argentine soccer superstar says.

Soccer legend Lionel Messi has dismissed the political factor for his controversial sit-out of a friendly match in Hong Kong early this month that enraged Hong Kong and Chinese fans in a short video..

Speaking in Spanish, Messi stressed that the video, uploaded on China’s Weibo Monday, was intended to give the “true version so no one has to continue reading false stories.”

He rejected reports that politics was at play, and if it were the case, he wouldn’t have “visited China as many times as I have.” It was all due to an inflamed adductor, and playing would have aggravated the injury, he said.

Messi said he felt a bit better after a few days’ rest and, therefore, played in Japan three days later.

“I’ve had a very close and special relationship with China,” he added in an apparent bid to shore up fanship. However, most Chinese netizens rejected Messi’s explanation. 

“Little rubbish is eyeing money,” said one Chinese netizen. “Can’t whitewash,” commented another. One netizen poked fun at the quality of the video: “It’s already 2024, yet the resolution is so low.” 

The video was subtitled in English and Chinese.

Messi had already explained in a post on Feb. 7 that he regretted being unable to take the pitch in Hong Kong because of the inflamed adductor, and he was in pain.

His sit-out infuriated a public clouded by Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong and distrust of the local government. Organized by Tatler Asia and funded by the Hong Kong government, it was one of numerous events aimed at easing the doldrums.

But the backlash prompted the Hong Kong government to swiftly distance itself from the event, even threatening to cut funding support.

The public fury extended when Messi played in Japan, just three days after the match in Hong Kong, sparking the Chinese state media and Hong Kong politicians to lash out at the Argentine soccer superstar. Regina Ip, a senior Chinese government adviser and former lawmaker, said: “his lies and hypocrisy are disgusting.”

Messi’s video was searched more than 7.3 million times after it was up for about two hours, and “Messi’s response” topped the list of trending topics. 

Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of Beijing’s mouthpiece tabloid Global Times, said he believes Messi did not apologize, but only provided details of what had happened while discarding the political and other reported factors. Still, Hu said he thought Messi’s attitude was quite sincere, and he accepted Messi’s explanation.

Translated and additional reporting by RFA Staff. Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn. 


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Cantonese.


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