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Fall-out from Lionel Messi’s Hong Kong no-show is anything but friendly

Atletico Madrid president gets history listen on club’s past after Bilbao blunder

Lionel Messi’s non-appearance for Inter Miami in their friendly against a Hong Kong Select XI is proving rather costly for Tatler XFEST, the organisers of the American side’s pre-season tour. So peeved were those who bought tickets for the game, they’ve ended up being offered a 50 per cent refund which XFEST claim will leave them facing losses of more than $5 million.

“Our aspiration was to create an iconic moment to remind the world how exciting Hong Kong is. That dream is broken for all those who bought tickets to see Messi on the pitch,” read their statement.

How angry was the op-ed in the Wen Wei Po paper about it all? Very. It described Messi’s no-show as “a blatant attempt at humiliating Hong Kong”, that “a mysterious and huge behind-the-scenes mastermind” planned it to “make Hong Kong look like an international fool and allow external forces with ulterior motives to take the opportunity to badmouth its events economy”. And you thought it was only a pre-season friendly?

And if you know your history ...

Non-students of Spanish football history might have been a bit befuddled by the fuss over Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo calling Athletic Club “Bilbao” last week – when they’re from Bilbao. But it’s a rumpus that’s rumbled on for over 50 years.


The gist: Athletic was founded in 1898 by British migrant workers – hence the anglicised name. But in 1940 dictator Francisco Franco ordered all institutions to ‘Hispanicise’ their names, so Athletic were forced to become Atletico de Bilbao. It wasn’t until 1972 that they were able to revert to their original name.

“Calling them Bilbao is disrespectful, it evokes the suppression of Basque culture by Franco,” as Football Espana explained to those of us left scratching our heads. Not that the club’s president, Jon Uriarte, is too bothered by it all. “There are many people who call us Athletic Bilbao, even some of our own supporters, it doesn’t cause me any discomfort,” he said.

Cerezo insisted he meant no “malice” and was unaware of the issue. At which point he was told he didn’t know his own club’s history. Athletic Club de Madrid was founded by members of the Basque community in the city and was effectively the sister club of Athletic. They too were forced to change their name – Athletic to Atletico – but opted to stick with the latter when Franco took his leave.

Spanish manager Luis de la Fuente, a former Athletic player, had his say on the matter. “Athletic is Athletic. It costs nothing to call them by their name,” he said. History lesson over, time for a lie down.

Quote of the week

“Once the match was over, I told him to **** off.” – Napoli owner Aurelio de Laurentiis on how he gently broke the news to Rudi Garcia back in November that he was sacked.

Number: 36.93

The top speed (km/h) reached by Chiedozie Ogbene for Luton this season, making him the Premier League’s second fastest player (behind Spurs’ Micky van de Ven). Nippy.

Word of Mouth

“When one player scores 60 goals, it helps you to win games. When you play with a player that makes a thousand million assists, it helps you to win games. You don’t have to study at Harvard or Yale to understand that.” – Pep Guardiola on Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne’s somewhat sizeable contributions to City’s success.

“Jude Bellingham is now inside the top 100 goalscorers in Real Madrid history. He’s played 29 games.” – Madrid-based Scottish journalist Euan McTear with a stat that hints at Bellingham’s rather useful start in Spain.

“A supercomputer? Does it go to a phone booth and change into something else from just a normal computer?” – Ange Postecoglou on being told that Opta’s ‘supercomputer’ gives Spurs only a 0.1 per cent chance of winning the Premier League this season. Mind you, that’s 0.1 per cent more than Alex Ferguson gave them when he was interviewed at the races on Saturday. “No chance.”

“If there is no rain on my farm, you kill the business of my farm. That is a stress. You can lose your hair. But I cannot lose my hair because we’re not winning because the opponent was better than us.” – Mauricio Pochettino on putting Chelsea’s struggles this season – when it’s rained, it’s poured – in to perspective.

“The Force ­Awakens gave me a lot of inspiration last night. I’m certain the resistance continues to inspire and we can keep at bay that evil empire. The message is always have skilled finishers like the Jedi knights, have the ability to deliver a fatal hit into the Death Star.” – Chelsea manager Emma Hayes on being asked how she’ll keep her energy up in her last season with the club. The reporter, who isn’t a Star Wars fan, was left none the wiser.

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