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Malice and protest: The PR disaster surrounding Lionel Messi

Football malice and protest

The PR disaster surrounding Lionel Messi

Status: 20.02.2024 | Reading time: 4 minutes

World star in need of explanation: Lionel Messi

Source: dpa/Shuji Kajiyama

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Lionel Messi is ending his career in the third-tier US league. However, the global star is currently not being celebrated, but rather the target of protests and malice. Especially in Asia. The waves are so big that Messi uploads a video to a Chinese network.

In the American beer advertisement, Lionel Messi smiles in a friendly manner, taking the tension out of the situation. The tap doesn’t work? It doesn’t matter, it can happen. In real life, however, a nice look from the 36-year-old wasn’t enough to appease thousands of angry football fans: the first pre-season preparation for the world champion from Argentina in the Inter Miami jersey turned into a PR disaster – and Messi became a target malicious and unfriendly reports from China.

Sporty? Things didn’t go well for co-owner David Beckham’s team either, with a record of 8:13 goals and only one win in seven games. Messi’s only goal was a converted penalty. The 1-1 draw in the last test before the start of the season against Real Salt Lake on Thursday night in Germany (2:00 a.m. CET), when Messi played for 60 minutes against his youth club Newell’s Old Boys last week, was a small step. “This game was important for a good feeling at the start of the season,” said coach Gerardo Martino. Even the emotional reunion with Argentina’s past could not hide the failed preparation.

The trigger for the bad press was a test match in the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong that was widely announced with Messi as the protagonist. Miami won 4-1, it was the first victory of the preparation after defeats in the previous stages in Saudi Arabia. Even then, to the displeasure of many fans, he was only substituted on. Some of the around 38,000 fans even traveled from Australia to Hong Kong to see the Argentine play. But Messi, like former FC Barcelona striker Luis Suárez, sat on the bench for 90 minutes.

Messi is a “brutal flamingo”

Messi later said he had adductor problems. However, the fact that the Argentine was back on the pitch a few days later in the friendly against Vissel Kobe in Japan further fueled the frustration of the Chinese fans. A South China Morning Post commentator described Messi as a “brutal flamingo” in reference to Inter Miami’s pink jerseys, according to US media. “Anyone who looked at him might as well have been staring at a ballerina in a tutu,” the man said.

Lionel Messi was only on the bench in the friendly against Vissel Kobe

Source: dpa/Eugene Hoshiko

“It’s a shame, because I always want to play, I want to be there, and especially when we travel so far and people are so happy to see us,” said Messi in Tokyo, apologetic but anger from China could no longer be stopped. The organizer in Hong Kong has already announced a partial refund of 50 percent of the tickets, which cost up to almost 600 euros.

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Chinese organizers also canceled a planned friendly match by the Argentine national team “for known reasons”. The national team was supposed to play against Nigeria in eastern China. Fans there may no longer have the chance to see the now eight-time world footballer play live. Messi will turn 37 in June.

“I did everything I could,” says Messi

This week Messi apparently felt compelled to make another statement. “I wanted to record this video to give you the true version of the story so that no one has to continue reading false stories,” Messi said in a film that appeared on the Chinese online platform Weibo on Tuesday night (local time). . He said he heard people say he didn’t play for political and other reasons. That is “totally wrong”. If that had been the case, he would not have traveled to Japan and China.

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“I did everything I could,” he continued: “But I couldn’t play. I felt unwell and there was a risk that it would get worse.” Because he felt better a few days later, he played in Japan. Messi’s video was at times one of the most discussed topics on Weibo.

But even in the USA it is still a costly affair to get tickets for Inter Miami games. Miami will be involved in all of the 25 most expensive games of the coming season – 15 away, 10 at home – as a ticket portal announced shortly before the start of the season. The home game against Real Salt Lake is sold out. Tickets are still available for the game on February 25th against the Los Angeles Galaxy: they start at $250. The most expensive tickets are more than $7,400. There is no guarantee that the aging world star will play.

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