LIONEL MESSI DEFENDS HONG KONG ABSENCE AFTER FANS BOO

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Forward Lionel Messi has defended himself after local fans booed Inter Miami because he missed a pre-season friendly in Hong Kong.

Inter beat a League XI 4-1 in front of almost 40,000 fans on Sunday, with Argentina captain Messi left on the bench because of a hamstring problem.

The Hong Kong government said Messi was contracted to play at least 45 minutes.

There were chants of “We want Messi” in the second half as the World Cup winner remained sat among the substitutes.

When he failed to make it on the pitch, there were then chants of “Refund”, before Inter co-owner David Beckham was drowned out by jeers as he tried to thank supporters during a speech after full-time.

The Hong Kong government’s major sports events committee said it was “extremely disappointed” that Messi did not play, having provided grants of £1.5m to organisers for the event.