Lionel Messi: Most Hated Players in a Specific Country As China Cancels Argentina Game

Lionel Messi: Most Hated Players in a Specific Country As China Cancels Argentina Game

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
Xherdan Shaqiri logo
X. Shaqiri
Chicago Fire logoMSwitzerland logo
Luis Suárez logo
L. Suárez
Almeria logoMColombia logo
T. Henry
-FFrance logo
Arjen Robben logo
A. Robben
Groningen logoMNetherlands logo
Vitoria da Conquista BA logo--
  • Lionel Messi's image in China has taken a sharp nosedive after a 'botched' friendly game
  • Messi was supposed to play against Hong Kong XI, but a muscle injury kept him out of action
  • Sports Brief takes a look at some of the footballers who are hated by a specific country

Inter Miami's decision not to play Lionel Messi in a preseason friendly game against Hong Kong XI continues to have far-reaching implications.

The Chinese government has now cancelled Argentina's scheduled friendly game against Nigeria that was supposed to take place in March at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center.

Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Luis Suarez, Granit Xhaka, Arjen Robben
Fans react to Lionel Messi's failure to come on during Inter Miami's game against Hong Kong XI on February 4. Photo by Justin Chin.
Source: Getty Images

A statement from the stadium's bureau stated that the game had been cancelled “in view of the reason everyone knows,” as reported by CNN.

Messi's public image in China has plummeted after 40,000 fans flocked to the Hong Kong Arena to watch him play, only for the Argentine to sit on the bench the entire game. Head coach Tata Martino cited an injury issue, but the situation worsened after the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner played in Japan a few days later.

Footballers who are hated by specific country

The cancellation of the Argentina games in March points to a frosty relationship between Chinese citizens and the former Barcelona captain, widely adored as one of the greatest footballers ever. Sports Brief looks at other players who were hated by a specific country and the reason why.

1. Luis Suarez - Ghana

No brainer, right? Luis Suarez infamously stopped a goal that would have sent Ghana to the 2010 World Cup semi-finals with his hand. He was rightly sent off and wildly celebrated Asamoah Gyan's resulting penalty kick.

Uruguay would later beat the Black Stars on post-match penalties, making Suarez a hero for his nation and a villain in Ghana and Africa by extension.

And just when you started to believe time heals everything, the former Barcelona striker faced Ghana in the 2022 World Cup. Ghana needed a draw while Uruguay needed to better South Korea's goal difference with a win. The South American side won the game 2-0 but couldn't go through as South Korea had a better goal difference.

Despite bowing out of the competition themselves, pictures of Suarez crying made for hilarious viewing back in Ghana. Karma.

2. Diego Maradona - England

Diego Maradona might be one of the greatest footballers to have fived, but his public perception isn't that great in England, especially with the fans of yesteryears who watched him in his full flow at the 1986 World Cup.

Maradona was unplayable in that tournament in Mexico, dragging the Albiceleste to glory by scoring five goals. The goal he scored against England, however, remains controversial to date as he poked the ball past Peter Shilton with his hand.

He refused to apologise for the act, calling it 'The Hand of God.' So offended were English fans that the Independent's writer, Will Gore, referred to Maradona as an "outrageous, appalling cheat" 32 years after the incident.

3. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri - Serbia

This right here is down to deep ethnic divisions between Kosovo, Albania and Serbia. Both players have Albanian heritage from the families in Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, though the Serbian government refused to acknowledge the breakaway. Additionally, Xhaka's father was tortured in a Belgrade prison for protesting against the government.

The two players, who play for Switzerland, have often taunted Serbia when the two sides meet. In 2018, they were fined after they celebrated with the Albanian eagles after knocking Serbia out. Four years later, Xhaka was spotted holding his crotch towards the Serbian bench.

4. Arjen Robben - Mexico

Arjen Robben became Mexico's public enemy number one when he dived to win a penalty in the 2014 World Cup round of 16.

The game at the Castelao was poised to go into extra-time after Wesley Sneijder had cancelled out Giovani dos Santos' opener with two minutes left. The game, however, turned on its head in stoppage time when Robben went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Rafael Marquez.

Replays showed that there was no contact, but the referee awarded a penalty, which Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored to knock Mexico out.

The Mexicans celebrated after the Dutch failed to make it to the 2018 World Cup with a fan, Jose Luis Mercado, constantly goading the football federation with tweets.

5. Thierry Henry - Ireland

For all his poise and grandeur on the pitch during his playing days, Thierry Henry managed to etch his name in football infamy with Ireland fans during a World Cup play-off match against Ireland in 2009.

Henry controlled a long ball that was destined to go out of play with his hand before crossing it to William Gallas, who headed it home to send Les Bleus to South Africa at the expense of Ireland.

The former Arsenal striker later revealed that he apologised to the Irish players after the game, admitting that he indeed had used his hand.

Other mentions

We are almost certain that many Egyptians still have a bone to pick with Sergio Ramos for his foul on Mohamed Salah during the 2018 Champions League final. Salah was forced to walk off the pitch with a dislocated shoulder. Not only did he miss the remainder of the game, but his preparations for the Pharaohs' campaign at the Russia World Cup were severely impacted.

Peter Crouch also got himself into Trinidad and Tobago's bad books when he used Brent Sancho's deadlocks to help him rise above the defender and score in the 2006 World Cup game. Sancho later told the tall striker that he is 'absolutely hated' in his country.

Biggest villains in football

Sports Brief also reported on the biggest football villains in history. Neal Maupay has managed to scale up the ladder quickly with his recent antics.

The Brentford striker scored against Tottenham Hotspur before pulling out James Maddison's darts celebration. A week later, a lip reader caught him goading Kyle Walker over his kids.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)