The Hong Kong Football Association were left red-faced and out of pocket after only managing to sell half the tickets for Tuesday's glamour friendly against Argentina to mark their centenary.

Only 20,230 turned up at the 40,000 capacity Hong Kong Stadium to witness a two-goal, 30 minute cameo by four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi in a lop-sided 7-0 stroll for the World Cup runners-up.

The South China Morning Post had reported months ago that the HKFA needed a full house in order to break even after pricing the cost of staging the fixture at HK$30 million ($3.87 million).

"It is a shame. The second-best team in the world is here and we have a half-empty stadium," HKFA's Mark Sutcliffe told the paper after the match.

"We will have a debrief with the agent and with all of our team. We will try to find out the reasons."

It is a shame. The second-best team in the world is here and we have a half-empty stadium

Mark Sutcliffe, Hong Kong Football Association

Hong Kong protests

Expensive ticket prices could be blamed, while many other Hong Kong residents simply have far more important things to worry about than football.

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the Chinese-controlled city in recent weeks, demanding that Beijing stand by a promise to introduce universal suffrage at elections for its leader in 2017.

Central parts of Hong Kong have been brought to a standstill by protests now into their third week, although numbers have dwindled to hundreds after police intervention.

The political mood was captured during the Argentina match, where boos could be heard for the Chinese national anthem before kick-off and yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the Occupy Central movement, were seen in the stands.

After the prestige of the twice world champions, Hong Kong return to the more accustomed standards of life as the 164th-ranked FIFA nation when they travel to Taiwan next month to take on the hosts, North Korea and Guam in East Asian Cup qualifiers.

Source: Reuters