Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi did not play any part of Inter Miami's pre-season clash with a Hong Kong XI. Marco Bello/Reuters

The Hong Kong government is seeking answers after Lionel Messi failed to get on the pitch in a friendly match between Inter Miami and a Hong Kong XI on Sunday.

The match at the Hong Kong Stadium was among the stops on Inter Miami's pre-season tour ahead of the forthcoming MLS season, which begins later this month.

Just over 38,000 fans attended the match in the hopes of catching Messi in action, but the Argentinian did not feature at all in the game. A hamstring issue caused Messi to remain on the bench whilst his former Barcelona teammate, Luis Suarez, also did not get onto the pitch for Inter Milan due to a knee injury.

Two of Messi's other former Barcelona teammates, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, did enter the pitch in the second half for Inter Miami, with the MLS side coming out 4-1 winners. However, the supporters on the ground were still visibly upset and furious at not getting to witness any involvement from Messi and were seen booing during the latter stages of the match.

Tickets for the game were priced at over £100 and fans were seen demanding a refund due to Messi's complete absence from the match. Co-owner and President of Inter Miami, David Beckham, even had his speech to the crowd during the post-match trophy presentation get drowned out by loud boos and whistles.

The Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC) of the Hong Kong government reacted to Messi playing zero minutes by releasing a statement after the game. It read: "Messi was not able to play in the friendly game and the government and fans are equally disappointed at the arrangements by the event organiser. The event organiser owes fans an explanation."

Tatler Asia was placed in charge of organising the match and was handed a grant of 16 million Hong Kong dollars (£1.6 million) by MSEC to carry out its duties.

Michel Lamuniere, CEO and Chairman of Tatler Asia, addressed Messi's absence from the match, stating: "Tatler Asia deeply regrets the disappointing ending to what was an exciting occasion. [Tatler Asia] has decided to officially withdraw its application for the 16 million Hong Kong dollars government grant."

Regarding Messi's involvement in the game, Tatler Asia found out that Messi would not play any part in the fixture at half-time and claimed to have told the government right away. However, government officials were reportedly told Messi would still feature in the second half, before only being told he would not in the closing 10 minutes of the contest.

There were attempts to salvage the situation by the government, including a request to Tatler Asia for Messi to interact with the supporters during the trophy presentation, but that was to no avail.

Inter Miami boss, Gerardo Martina, explained the decision not to play Messi and Suarez in the match at the Hong Kong Stadium.

He said: "This was a decision made together with our medical team. We checked their physical wellbeing and they risked sustaining an injury if they went onto the pitch."

Martina added: "We understand the disappointment from the fans, and we ask for their forgiveness."

What unfolded in Hong Kong adds to a nightmare first pre-season tour for Inter Miami with Messi at its disposal. Last Thursday, the club had a friendly match against Cristiano Ronaldo's current side, Al-Nassr, in Riyadh, with the match billed as the final meeting between Messi and his long-time rival.

However, Messi only played the final seven minutes of the game and Ronaldo did not feature at all for the Saudi Pro League side due to a calf injury. The match was not competitive in the slightest as Al-Nassr ran out 6-0 winners, with fans frustrated at not seeing Messi and Ronaldo compete against one another.

Inter Miami will conclude its run of pre-season games in Asia when they take on the Japanese side, Vissel Kobe, in Tokyo, on Wednesday. It is unclear whether Messi will be fit in time to take part in any of the action, but he has made the trip to the Japanese capital.

Martina's side will then play a friendly match on home soil against Argentinian side and Messi's former youth team, Newell's Old Boys, on 15th February. Inter Miami will begin its MLS campaign at home to Real Salt Lake on 22nd February.