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Messi Insists Hong Kong No-show Was Due To Injury, Not Politics

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Argentine football star Lionel Messi insisted Monday that his absence from a match in Hong Kong two weeks ago that drew the ire of spectators was not a snub but prompted by injury.

In a video posted on China’s Weibo social media platform, Messi rejected chatter that his no-show was “for political reasons” and said if this had been the case, “I would not have traveled” to Hong Kong in the first place.

As everyone knows, I always want to play and be in every game,” he said.

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READ ALSO: Messi, Beckham Booed After Superstar Sits Out Hong Kong Friendly

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner stayed on the bench throughout Inter Miami’s 4-1 win against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4.

His no-show drew boos and calls for refunds from thousands of fans who had shelled out large sums to see the World Cup-winning captain play in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Widely considered the best player of his generation, Messi is a highly marketable sportsman who people around the world will pay top dollar to see, even in the twilight of his trophy-laden career.

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READ ALSO: Messi Not The GOAT – Spain Coach, De La Fuente

Some nationalist politicians and outlets interpreted Messi’s absence — and his subsequent appearance at a similar match in Japan — as a snub to China, without offering evidence.

Sports bosses in China subsequently canceled two friendly matches featuring world champions Argentina.

Messi spoke in his video of a “very nice and very close” relationship with China, a country with which he said he had “done a lot of things” including matches and events.

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His reason for not playing, the star striker said, was due to injury, specifically “inflammation of an adductor” muscle.

 

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EPL: Top Goal Scorers At Matchday 32

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After Sunday’s matches on matchday 32, here are the leading English Premier League,EPL, top scorers:

20: Haaland (Man City)

19: Watkins (Aston Villa)

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17: Isak (Newcastle), Salah (Liverpool), Solanke (Bournemouth)

16: Palmer (Chelsea)

15: Bowen (West Ham), Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

14: Foden (Man City), Saka (Arsenal)

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READ ALSO: Five-goal Haaland Crushes Luton As Man City Reach FA Cup Quarter-finals

12: Woods (Nottm Forest)

11: Cunha (Wolves), Nunez (Liverpool)

10: Gordon (Newcastle), Hwang (Wolves), Richarlison (Tottenham)

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Meet The Invincibles: See Three Football Teams Unbeaten In One Season

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Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen of 2023-24 stand on the cusp of greatness, with just 11 matches theoretically between them and a record undefeated season for a top-five European league team.

Of the 42 matches they have so far played this campaign, they have won 37, drawn five and lost a grand total of zero.

Bayer could win the Bundesliga for the first time in their history this weekend when they take on Werder Bremen, while they won their Europa League quarter-final first leg against West Ham 2-0 and face second-division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25.

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Should their record stay unblemished across their remaining fixtures in all three competitions they will become the first side to go a full season undefeated both domestically and in European competition.

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It is a scenario few, if any, would have ever predicated at the start of the season, with German giants Bayern Munich having won the last 11 league titles and no Bundesliga team ever even completing a domestic league season without losing at least once.

In the history of the sport worldwide, many teams have gone an entire league season without losing, such as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal “Invincibles” of 2003-04, but to do it across multiple competitions is rarified territory.

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AFP Sport highlights three teams that completed a full season without tasting defeat across several competitions:

– Al Ahly –

Egyptian giants Al Ahly won the league and the CAF Champions League without any losses in 2004-05, but were denied from completing the treble only by a penalty shoot-out elimination in the Egypt Cup after their round of 16 tie ended in a draw.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Lagos Court Grants Emefiele N50m Bail

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That season in the league, they finished a staggering 31 points clear of second-placed Enppi SC and failed to win only two of 26 matches.

The dominant double was made all the sweeter by a CAF Champions League semi-final victory against bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek by an aggregate score of four goals to one.

– Preston North End –

One must go back to the 19th century to find such an example in the English game, indeed all the way back to the very advent of the English League in 1888.

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Preston North End won a league and cup double in the 1888-89 season, which saw them go undefeated through 22 league matches and claim the FA Cup final 3-0 against Wolverhampton Wanderers at London’s Kennington Oval.

– Johor Darul Ta’zim –

Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim completed an undefeated domestic quadruple in the 2023 Malaysian season.

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With the domestic league and cup running from February to December 2023, Johor Darul Ta’zim won a staggering 37 out of 38 games on their way to claiming the country’s Super Cup, Piala Malaysia Cup, FA cup and league title.

Sadly, their domestic dominance didn’t translate to the bigger challenges of the Asian Champions League where they won three group games but lost three.
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BREAKING: O.J. Simpson, Ex-football Star Acquitted Of Murder, Ries At 76

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O.J. Simpson, the star NFL football player whose 1995 acquittal in the so-called “trial of the century” for the brutal murders of his wife and a male friend gripped the world, has died at the age of 76, his family announced.

On April 10, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer,” a message signed by the family said on social media site X.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Rivers Police Kill Gang Leader Who Murdered Rivers CDC Chairman

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Details later…

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