The controversy surrounding Inter Miami‘s recent visit to Hong Kong has continued days later. The Major League Soccer side previously played a Hong Kong XI on Sunday, February 4th in front of over 38,000 fans. Although Miami won the preseason match, a majority of the home fans were not thrilled that Lionel Messi did not feature.
The superstar unfortunately missed the encounter due to a hamstring injury. After the game, Messi himself conducted a rare press conference to express regret for the injury. He even claimed to hopefully return to Hong Kong soon.
While Messi missed the Hong Kong match, he did manage to recover in time to play against Vissel Kobe three days later. As a result, Hong Kong government officials have since requested more explanation regarding Messi’s absence in their nation.
Miami has responded by saying that they are “compelled to reiterate the reality of these types of sports injuries” during their preseason preparations. They also echoed the superstar’s sentiments about returning to Hong Kong “should the fans be open to receiving the club again.”
MLS announcer claims that fans know the risks when purchasing tickets
While Inter Miami felt compelled to publicly apologize for Messi’s recent absence, MLS commentator Max Bretos took a different approach. In this week’s episode of The Soccer OG with Max Bretos, the MLS announcer who works for Apple TV stated that buying tickets to watch a sporting event is risky. A particular player’s involvement in the game is never necessarily guaranteed.
“The public should know better for these games. Seeing a player play in front of you is promised to no one,” Bretos told his listeners. “So, why are we treating the fans like they deserve something here? You are going to take to risk of buying those tickets for a game that you know damn well anything could go haywire, especially when you’re dealing with someone who’s 36. That’s on you.”
“The Hong Kong government is trying to hold MLS and/or Inter Miami feet over the fire because Messi did not play against Hong Kong. And then played a little against Vissel Kobe. Inter Miami does not have to show their injury report. If Lionel Messi couldn’t play against Hong Kong, he couldn’t play. That’s final.”
Miami did not want to risk Messi further injuring himself in Hong Kong friendly
Bretos then took it a step further by telling Hong Kong fans to “get lost” for griping about not being able to watch Messi play. “It just drives me insane because this happens all the time,” continued the soccer analyst. “And Inter Miami is taken to task by the media.”
“Hong Kong, get lost. That’s it. You don’t want it? You don’t have it, you got a training with Messi, you got to see Messi. If he came on for 20 minutes, what difference would that make to you?”
“All this is fair play from Inter Miami. They don’t owe an explanation to anybody. If they’re going to go on tour, no matter how they market it, give me a break. If you’re a patron and you go there, you know the risk.”
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“At the end of the day, this [preseason world tour] has been a success. It will bode well for Inter Miami when Lionel Messi retires.”
Bretos’s comments may be harsh, but the sentiment is fairly accurate. What if Miami played Messi due to the demands of the fans and he suffered a further significant injury? That would be a disastrous outcome for the club and the aging star.
Miami is counting on Messi so it can compete for an MLS title in the upcoming season. That requires him to be healthy and available regularly. Following the Asia tour, the club has one more preseason friendly on the schedule before the 2024 MLS campaign begins. Messi is facing his former youth club, Newell’s Old Boys on Thursday, Feb. 15 before opening the regular season six days later.