Messi sets record straight over Hong Kong absence

Inter Miami player Lionel Messi on the sideline in a pre-season friendly soccer match against Hong Kong XI at Hong Kong Stadium. Photo: Reuters.

Lionel Messi took to one of China's largest social media platforms on Monday to address speculation over his non-appearance in a recent Inter-Miami friendly in Hong Kong. Chinese state media, Hong Kong politicians and fans reacted angrily when the 36-year-old Argentine forward came off the bench three days later in a friendly match in Tokyo.

Since then Hangzhou and Beijing have said they will not host the Argentina games scheduled for March as the fallout rumbles on and now Messi has spoken in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

"I've read and heard many things that have been said after the game in Hong Kong. I wanted to record this video and give you the true version so nobody has to continue reading false stories," Messi said in a video posted on Weibo.

"I've heard people say that I didn't want to play for political reasons and many other reasons that are untrue. "Had that been the case I wouldn't have even travelled to Japan or visited China, as I have many times. Since the start of my career, I've had a very close and special relationship with China."

Messi repeated the reason for his absence from the highly-anticipated game against a local League XI in Hong Kong on February 4.

"As I said in the press conference, I had an inflamed adductor and I couldn't play in the first game in Saudi Arabia, which is when I felt it.

"In the second game, I tried to play for a bit, but it got worse. Then on the day before the game (in Hong Kong) I tried to train and made an effort for all those who had come to watch training.

"It felt a bit better a few days later and that's why I played for a bit in Japan to prepare fitness-wise for everything to come because I needed to play and get back up to speed."

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