China News Service, Beijing, February 20th. The incident of Messi not playing in the Hong Kong exhibition match, which had faded slightly, became a hot topic again due to Messi's response again on the evening of the 19th.

  This is the third time Messi has responded to the controversy. Compared with the previous two times when he expressed that he did not play due to injury, Messi specifically emphasized that he has "special feelings" for Chinese fans.

  Video screenshot

  Messi's first public response to the matter was on February 6, two days after the Hong Kong exhibition match. Messi and Inter Miami have arrived in Tokyo to begin preparations for the Japanese exhibition match.

  On the morning of the same day, in response to Messi's absence from the exhibition match, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Lee Ka-chao, and the Vice President of the Hong Kong Sports Association and Olympic Committee, Fok Qigang, spoke out one after another.

  Fok Qigang said bluntly that Messi's past achievements in the football world are unquestionable and worthy of respect, but the way this game was handled made him believe that Hong Kong fans did not feel respected.

  Prior to this, the Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Yang Yunxiong, also revealed that 10 minutes before the end of the game, the organizer confirmed that Messi could not play, and the SAR government immediately took a series of remedial actions, such as asking the organizer whether Messi could be contacted Xi personally explained to the fans and accepted the award on behalf of the team, but did not do any of this.

  Messi at the Hong Kong exhibition match. Photo by Hou Yu

  On the afternoon of the 6th, Messi appeared alone at a press conference in Japan and answered questions related to his absence from the Hong Kong exhibition game. He said: "In the first game in Saudi Arabia, I felt some discomfort in the adductor muscles. The MRI showed that it was not an injury, but I still felt discomfort."

  "Many people came to the scene in Hong Kong and I wanted to play, but it is a pity that something like this happened in the football world. I hope I will have the opportunity to play in Hong Kong in the future."

  In the pre-match training that evening, Messi participated in a confrontation training with the ball, which was only 2 days away from the exhibition match in Hong Kong. The organizer of the Japanese exhibition game described that Messi trained with full vigor, passed and ran very briskly, and participated in the entire training session.

  Three minutes before the kickoff of the exhibition match the next day, Messi's Weibo account whose IP is located in Sichuan posted a second response, which was roughly the same as Messi's press conference in Japan.

  Social media screenshots

  "I was unable to play in the friendly match in Hong Kong due to a groin injury. My injury was swollen and painful. Friends who know me will know that I want to give my best in every game, especially with my teammates like this. Even though they have come from afar, the fans are looking forward to seeing us healthy."

  Immediately afterwards, in the 60th minute of the Japanese exhibition match, Messi came on as a substitute. In more than half an hour on the court, he created many offensive threats and showed good form, which also caused an uproar among Chinese netizens. The game against the Hong Kong Stars became the only game Messi missed in Inter Miami's six-game exhibition schedule.

  Messi during an exhibition match in Japan.

  On the 9th, the Hangzhou Municipal Sports Bureau issued a statement saying that due to well-known reasons, the conditions for the Argentine football team to come to Hangzhou for a friendly match in March this year are not mature and have decided to cancel the event; on the 10th, the Beijing Football Association verified that Beijing currently has no plans to host relevant competitions in which Messi will participate.

  Two consecutive statements mean that the way for the Argentine national team to come to China in March has been blocked.

  Messi came on as a substitute in the Japan exhibition match.

  Just when the incident was gradually declining, 15 days after the Hong Kong exhibition match ended, Messi's Weibo account posted a video in which Messi responded to the incident of not playing for the third time.

  Compared with the previous two responses, Messi specifically mentioned this time: "I have read and heard a lot of things that were mentioned after the game in Hong Kong, China. I want to record this video to give the true situation. I hope everyone will not do it again." I continue to see false news.”

  In addition to reiterating that he had inflammation in the adductor muscle and was unable to play at the time, Messi revealed that he played in Japan because the injury felt better and he hoped to regain some form for the upcoming league.

  He also specifically mentioned that he has had a very close and special fate with China since the beginning of his career. "The interviews, games and activities here have given me great memories. As a player, I have also played here many times for FC Barcelona and the national team."

  "I have a special affection for the Chinese fans and will continue to do so. I hope to meet again soon."

  But after Messi's third response, most netizens didn't seem to buy it.

  In a survey initiated by China News Service with nearly 30,000 participants, 70% of the netizens surveyed said they did not accept Messi’s response, 19% thought it was “difficult to comment”, and only 8% thought it was acceptable.

  In your opinion, is Messi’s matter over? (over)