Lionel Messi packs Hong Kong stadium for training session


Much has been made of Inter Miami’s extensive preseason tour, taking them from Texas and El Salvador to Hong Kong and Japan. With a brief jaunt to Saudi Arabia in-between. But although the on-field results have been disappointing the Herons have proved to be a massive draw.

On Sunday they will take on a Hong Kong Select XI and held an open training session on Saturday to prepare, allowing members of the public to watch the Herons on the practice field. Unsurprisingly, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and David Beckham in attendance, it was a massive draw.

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The stands were packed to watch Inter Miami put through their paces.PETER PARKSAFP

There had been some doubt as to Messi’s availability for the session. The Argentine had started in each of Inter Miami’s first three preseason fixtures but was only able to make a cameo appearance from the bench in Thursday’s 6-0 defeat to Al-Nassr. On Friday Miami head coach Tata Martino confirmed that he expects Messi to play on Sunday and he took part in the session on Saturday, jogging alongside former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba.

Ex-Barça teammates Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba stick together.

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Ex-Barça teammates Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba stick together.PETER PARKSAFP

“The results and performances of the team in Saudi Arabia was not what we expected,” Martino told reporters on Friday. “There are many aspects that need improving. We’ve had imperfections, it’s not a specific thing. Obviously we’ve conceded many goals. We are trying to find a way for the players to give their best.”

Messi and Beckham join kids session

Lionel Messi and David Beckham are among the most biggest names in soccer history. They each have legions of fans around the world and the Miami duo delighted local children in Hong Kong by taking part in an on-field training session in front of the gathered crowds. Beckham hung up his famous boots in 2023 but now, more than a decade on, he remains one of the most recognisable figures in the sport.

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham got involved in Hong Kong.

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Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham got involved in Hong Kong.LAM YIKREUTERS

But the big draw on Saturday was undoubtedly Lionel Messi. His arrival at Hong Kong Stadium was greeted with a roar of excitement and a flurry of camera phone flashes, the stands a patchwork of Inter Miami, Barcelona and Argentina shirts baring the iconic ‘Messi 10′ on the back.

Everyone in the stadium was drawn to Messi but no one got closer to the local children involved in the on-field session.

Local children were joined by Lionel Messi for a quick session.

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Local children were joined by Lionel Messi for a quick session.LAM YIKREUTERS

It was a moment to remember for those involved and a reminder of why Inter Miami opted for this globe-trotting preseason tour. The performances on the pitch have not been good – three defeats and one draw against fairly modest opposition – but the signing of Messi was as much a boost for the marketing department as it was the matchday performances.

Last month Tata Martino said that he would be forced to rest Messi over the course of the tour, but acknowledged that the Argentine’s appearance was required to aid the club’s commercial operations. He spent just half a season in Miami in 2023 but the club’s total annual revenue doubled in comparison to the previous year’s. Miami are continuing to make the most of a generational talent, in any way they can.



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