TOKYO (AP) — Lionel Messi will play on Wednesday in Tokyo, where Inter Miami will face the Japanese club Vissel Kobe in a friendly.
And don’t look for another PR disaster like what happened on Sunday when Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain sat on the bench for an entire match against a team of Hong Kong league players, angering thousands of fans. who demanded refunds.
His teammate Luis Suárez, another big name in Miami, also remained on the bench.
Messi appeared on Tuesday at a five-star hotel in Tokyo for his second press conference since arriving in Miami on June 7, and his first since August 17. He sat alone on a stool on the stage, wearing a pink jacket and showed a little humility.
He was surely under pressure from local Japanese sponsors, including Vissel Kobe, where his former Barcelona teammate Andrés Iniesta became a favorite of the Japanese public before leaving last year.
“The truth is that I feel very good compared to a few days ago,” Messi said in Spanish. “And depending on how that (training) goes. And if I’m honest, I still don’t know if I can or not. But I feel much better and I really want to be able to do it.”
Messi trained later on Tuesday in the Tokyo suburbs and looked fit, performing exercises and moving with ease at a practice facility run by the Japan Football Association. Afterwards he did not speak to journalists.
Messi tried to explain to Hong Kong fans that it was impossible for him to play with a groin injury. Some suggested that he could have simply jogged for a few minutes, which might have satisfied fans in a game that was largely meaningless except for its promotional value.
“The truth is that it was bad luck that I couldn’t (play) on the day of the Hong Kong match,” Messi said, adding that “the discomfort continued and it was very difficult for me to play.”
“Unfortunately, in football, in any game things can happen that can injure us. It’s a shame because I always want to participate, I want to be there, and even more so when it comes to these games when we travel so far and people are very excited to watch our games.”
Inter Miami’s world tour has been disappointing as the club tries to build a brand using its veteran stars Messi and Suarez. In five games spanning El Salvador, Dallas, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, Inter Miami won just once and was outscored 12-7.
The Asian tour concludes on Wednesday at the Tokyo National Stadium.
Mark Conrad, a professor of sports law, ethics and business at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, reminded fans that a ticket is for one game and does not guarantee a player’s participation.
“While it may be true that many fans bought tickets in the hope of seeing Messi, the ticket is to see the game, not a specific player, unless there is a condition that says otherwise,” Conrad told The Associated Press. .
“While it is likely that the price and interest were largely due to Messi’s involvement, his lack of playing does not generally constitute a breach of contract.”
Messi said he hoped to visit Hong Kong again and play next time.
“I hope we can come back and we can play another game and I can be there,” he said. “As I do whenever I can. But the truth is that it is a shame that I could not participate.”
AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer