Argentinian national football team modifies itinerary, opts for U.S. matches over China visit in March

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23rd February 2024 – (Beijing) The Argentinian national football team has announced the cancellation of their anticipated tour of China, initially slated for 18th – 26th March, in favour of participating in two friendly fixtures on American soil.

Through a series of posts on the team’s official Weibo account, the decision was relayed to the public, detailing that the Argentinian squad will now face El Salvador and Nigeria on 22nd March and 26th March, respectively. These matches replace what would have been a high-profile tour of China.

The change in plans follows a series of events that sparked widespread speculation and debate. At a showcase match in Hong Kong on 4th February, hosted by Inter Miami CF, Lionel Messi, the Argentinian and global football icon, did not play, remaining on the bench in trainers. This prompted a whirlwind of media and public inquiry.

Subsequently, on 9th February, the Hangzhou Municipal Sports Bureau  announced the cancellation of Argentina’s tour in Hangzhou, citing well-known reasons, without further elaboration. The Beijing Football Association followed suit, stating the absence of any plans to host events involving Messi.

Amid swirling rumours, Messi addressed the Hong Kong incident on 19th February via a video on his Weibo account ‘LeoMessi10’. He expressed his deep connection with China, reminiscing fondly about past interviews and matches held there. He clarified that an adductor inflammation prevented his participation in the Hong Kong game, as playing could have exacerbated the injury.

Messi also addressed speculation that political reasons might have influenced his decision not to play, firmly denying these claims. He reaffirmed his commitment to the sport and his desire to play in every game, pointing out that political reasons would not have led him to travel to Japan or visit China multiple times previously in his career.