David Beckham was booed by Inter Miami fans who demanded a refund after Lionel Messi did not play in a pre-season friendly in Hong Kong.
Messi, who has been suffering from a hamstring injury, was left on the bench as his side beat Hong Kong XI 4-1.
Footage on social media showed angry fans chanting “refund” before a post-match speech from Beckham was greeted with boos.
The Hong Kong government said match organisers Tatler Asia could face a reduction in funding.
Its sports minister Kevin Yeung said the government’s funding agreement with Tatler Asia required Messi to play on the field for at least 45 minutes, unless there were safety or health concerns.
Mr Yeung said the organisers had reaffirmed Messi would be playing in the second half of the match before the start of the game.
But when the government noticed the second half did not proceed as planned, it tried to follow up with the organiser but was told Messi could not play due to an injury, he said.
“We therefore immediately request them to explore other remedies such as Messi appearing in the field to interact with his fans and receiving the trophy. Unfortunately, as you all see, these did not work out,” he said.
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An official statement added: “The government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed that Messi could neither play in the friendly match, nor explain to the fans in person upon request.
“The way that the organiser and Inter Miami CF handled the situation could not meet the expectations of the fans who showed strong support to Messi, especially those visitors who came all the way here for the match.
“The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau and the MSEC will rely on the terms and conditions of the agreement in requiring the organiser to take responsibility, including a reduction of the amount of funding as a result of Messi being not able to play in the match.”