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China tour for Messi’s Inter Miami called off

BEIJING (AFP) – Plans for Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami to play two games in China this month have been called off, the club announced on yesterday.

Inter Miami said the tour’s promoter had informed the club of the cancellation, adding it was “due to unforeseen circumstances in China”, according to an online statement.

The tour organiser confirmed the news in a post on Chinese social media site Weibo, saying that it “deeply regretted” the announcement but without providing a reason for the decision.

The team had originally been scheduled to play two Chinese Super League teams in friendly matches, first facing Qingdao Hainiu on Sunday and then Chengdu Rongcheng three days later.

Recent World Cup champion Messi is wildly popular in China, where the men’s national team has performed poorly in recent years and the domestic league wrestles with corruption.

Messi led the Argentinians to a 2-0 victory over Australia in an international friendly in June, to the delight of thousands of fans in the South American nation’s trademark blue-and-white striped jerseys. The 36-year-old football legend was awarded his eighth Ballon d’Or trophy in Paris on Monday.

Messi’s arrival at Miami in July saw the club massively increase its global social media following, while on the field the team won its first trophy with a Leagues Cup triumph in August.

Lionel Messi. PHOTO: AP