No refunds for Singapore-Argentina friendly despite no-shows by Messi, Higuain

No refunds for Singapore-Argentina friendly despite no-shows by Messi, Higuain
Lionel Messi arriving at Changi Aiport on Saturday (June 10) at 4pm. He left Singapore the same night to return home. Photo: Argentine Football Association

No refunds for Singapore-Argentina friendly despite no-shows by Messi, Higuain

Match promoter UNICESS says this is because Argentina’s squad still filled with other world-class players

SINGAPORE — Football fans who bought tickets in the hopes of watching Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain in action for Argentina against Singapore on Tuesday night (June 13) will not be able to seek refunds despite the star players withdrawing from the international friendly.

While the duo were heavily promoted as the star attractions of the game, match promoter Unicess Sports Group said that no refunds or forms of compensation will be provided. Tickets to the match at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium are priced at S$40, S$78, S$138 and S$188, and Unicess revealed that more than 20,000 tickets have been sold to date. 

Responding to queries from TODAY, Unicess said that while the selection of Argentina’s squad was out of its control, they believe that “football fans will understand” because the world No 2 team will still feature several top stars. “While Unicess and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) share the disappointment of football fans at the absence of these players, there is not a requirement to refund tickets,” said Unicess.

“Argentina have selected a ... squad that continues to feature world-class players such as Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Romero, and we look forward to what will still be a highly entertaining match.” 

Unicess also pinned the blame on the Argentine Football Association (AFA), saying that it only confirmed the withdrawals of Messi, Higuain and Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi on Saturday evening. They also clarified that the AFA had provided Unicess with the images and videos of Messi to be used for marketing purposes.

However, media reports from Argentina last Thursday said that Messi and Otamendi would be leaving the squad after the team’s international friendly against Brazil in Melbourne on June 9. Head coach Jorge Sampaoli also said at a press conference last week that “it was already planned” that Messi and Otamendi would leave after the Brazil game.

Barcelona striker Messi eventually made a whirlwind trip here on Saturday, arriving at Changi Airport and travelling with the team to Fullerton Hotel before leaving for Spain a few hours later. 

The FAS, which is the official sanctioning body of the match, said it had discussed the issue of refunds with Unicess, but that the “commercial” decision was taken solely by the latter. 

“We do understand the fans’ frustrations and the difficult situation Unicess has been put in by the late withdrawals,” said an FAS spokesman. “It is not easy for them to find a satisfactory outcome, as such matches are extremely expensive to put together.

“Nonetheless, we hope that football fans are still excited to see one of the best teams in the world take on our boys in what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

While football fan Nathaniel Lee did not blame Unicess, he had hoped that they would provide some form of compensation to fans. 

“While I can empathise with them, they should also spare a thought for the fans who bought tickets thinking they were going to watch Messi, Higuain and even (Sergio) Aguero, who was in the promotional poster as well,” said the 35-year-old.

Others were less forgiving, with Jas Singh writing on TODAY Sports’ Facebook page: “This is a good wake-up call to never buy into the hype of end-of-season tours.”