Lionel Messi’s (36, Inter Miami) tour of Hong Kong has caused more uproar among Chinese fans.
Messi’s club, Inter Miami, officially announced on Feb. 8 that “Miami will play the Hong Kong League All-Stars on Feb. 4 in Hong Kong.” The venue is the 40,000-capacity Hong Kong University Stadium. The venue is the 40,000-capacity Hong Kong University Stadium.
Tickets for Messi’s all-star game will go on sale on February 15. Tickets for Messi’s public training sessions will also go on sale on February 3. Hong Kong is set to get the full “Messi Experience.
Miami co-owner David Beckham said, “Hong Kong is a beautiful city and a great place for sports. I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia. I’m delighted that Inter Miami will be visiting Hong Kong on its first tour of Asia.”
However, Chinese fans were more excited than Hong Kong fans. “Messi is coming to China! A lot of Chinese fans will go to the stadium,” Chinese media such as Sina.com reported. Hong Kong is adjacent to Shenzhen, China. It is likely that many Chinese fans will travel to Hong Kong to see Messi.
This is not incorrect, as Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. However, Hong Kong is separate from China in many ways, including politics, economics, and culture. In 2019, Hong Kong citizens protested for independence and the Chinese military cracked down on the protests, which became a global issue. Hong Kongers are very sensitive about referring to Hong Kong as China.
Messi was stopped by Chinese authorities in June when he tried to enter China without a visa at the Beijing airport for a friendly match between Argentina and Australia. Messi, a dual citizen of Argentina and Spain, had traveled to Taiwan without a visa on his Spanish passport, so he thought he could enter China without a visa as well. “Isn’t Taiwan China?” he said.
The Chinese responded by saying, “She’s disrespecting China!” and “She’s ignorant to not know the Taiwan issue.” After a two-hour wait at the airport, Messi was granted a visa and cleared through immigration with the help of Argentine officials.
Thousands of fans showed up to see Messi, paralyzing the airport. China welcomed Messi to Hong Kong with the phrase “he’s coming to China”.
At the Argentina vs. Australia game, a Chinese fan lunged at Messi and was stopped by security. Messi had an incredulous look on his face as he was dragged away.