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Lionel Messi takes to the field in Tokyo as Chinese fans remain angered by Hong Kong no-show

Inter Miami star Lionel Messi returned to action on Wednesday in a match against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo, though Chinese fans remain upset that the star did not play in Sunday’s game in Hong Kong.

Moments before taking to the pitch, a statement posted on Messi’s verified Chinese social media Weibo account again expressed regret for not being able to play in Sunday’s match.

“Hello to all my fans in mainland China and Hong Kong! As I said in the press conference, it was a real shame not to be able to play in Hong Kong the other day due to a groin injury that had swollen and I was in pain,” the post said.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to play, that’s what I always want, to do my best in any game. And especially in these games when we travel so far and fans are excited to see us attend the game healthily.”

Messi added that he hopes to return to Hong Kong and mainland China in the future.

However, the post displayed an IP address – a Weibo requirement – suggesting it had been posted from Sichuan, China.

“Yes we are so easy to be fooled,” one Weibo user wrote in response, while another posted, “This is not sincere at all.”

The statement on Weibo is a top trending topic on the Chinese social media site and has already received more than 50,000 comments, with many expressing further anger and disappointment at Messi.

Messi was unable to break the deadlock during Miami's game against Vissel Kobe. - Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images
Messi was unable to break the deadlock during Miami's game against Vissel Kobe. - Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

During Wednesday’s game against Vissel Kobe, Messi was brought on for David Ruiz as a second-half substitute.

The match ended 0-0 and Messi did not take a spot-kick as Miami lost the deciding penalty shootout 4-3.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the match in Tokyo, Messi expressed his regret at not being able to play in Hong Kong due to a hip abductor injury, but said that he was feeling “much better” ahead of the subsequent leg of Miami’s preseason tour in Japan.

Fans in Hong Kong booed and called for ticket refunds due to Messi’s non-appearance in Sunday’s game, and even the Hong Kong government shared its dismay that the forward had not taken to the field.

Luis Suárez, Messi former teammate at Barcelona, was also sidelined with an injury in Hong Kong but played 75 minutes for Miami against Vissel Kobe.

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