Lionel Messi reveals real reason for his absence from Hong Kong friendly

Lionel Messi has made another attempt to defend his decision to not play after being accused of a “deliberate and calculated snub” for sitting out of a friendly in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong government demanded an explanation from the event organisers after expressing its “extreme disappointment” over Messi’s decision not to appear in a match between Inter Miami and the Hong Kong XI earlier this month, according to The Athletic.

Lionel Messi gestures during a match. — AFP/File

The problem worsened when the 36-year-old played against Vissel Kobe in Japan three days later, despite head coach Tata Martino’s later claims that the decision to not play the player was because of an ongoing ailment for his top player.

Messi elaborated on Martino’s remarks that he had adductor inflammation, but he went on to explain why he didn’t play on Monday by addressing the matter and the consequences that followed.

“I’ve read and heard a lot of things about what happened after the match in Hong Kong,” he said in a video message posted on Chinese social media website, Weibo. “That’s why I wanted to make this video to give the real explanation and avoid reading false reports.”

“As everyone knows, I always want to play. I want to play in every match. I heard that I didn’t want to play because of politics and many other things that have nothing to do with this. If that were the case I wouldn’t have traveled to Japan or to China like I have so many times in my career.

“I’ve always had a very close relationship with China. I’ve done so many things with China like interviews, (friendly) matches, events, and games with Barcelona and the Argentina national team. Like I said during the press conference that I gave: I had inflammation in my adductor and I couldn’t play. I felt it in the first game that I played in Saudi Arabia and I tried to play in the second game (in Saudi) but it felt worse,” he said. “I tried the day before to take part in that training session to be there for all those people. I did what I could and I took part in the clinic with all those kids, but I honestly couldn’t play because I felt discomfort.

“After a few days had passed I felt a little better and that’s why I played a bit in the friendly in Japan in order to continue improving physically and continue to prepare for what’s coming next for me. I had to play to get some rhythm back,” he added. “I’ve already said this but I felt it was important to repeat it after everything that has been said. I want to send my love to the people of China, a (feeling) I’ve always had with them. I hope we can see each other again soon.”

According to Martino, the team’s decision to start Messi for 30 minutes against Vissel Kobe was decided upon following the previous evening’s practice.

“After practice on Tuesday in the evening, he (Messi) said he felt good and we agreed he would play 30 minutes,” he said. “We are very content now after the game is over because Messi looked very comfortable.”

Martino had previously said after the match against the Hong Kong XI: “It really was an enormous risk even playing him for a few minutes.”

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