FIFA handed a four-match ban to Lionel Messi on Tuesday after ruling that the Argentina forward verbally abused a match official during a World Cup qualifying game against Chile last week.
Apart from Tuesday’s Bolivia match, Messi will now miss Argentina’s game at Uruguay on Aug. 31, and home games against Venezuela on Sept. 5 and Peru on Oct. 5.
The Barcelona superstar was slapped with the suspension and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160) by FIFA’s disciplinary panel. However, he can return for Argentina’s final qualifier, away to Ecuador on October 10.
FIFA claimed Messi was guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” and added in a statement: “This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases.”
The Argentina federation have already confirmed they will appeal the ban, with team secretary Jorge Miadosqui saying: “The decision doesn’t correspond with the reality based on what was put in the referee’s report.”
Football’s world governing body had to intervene because Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci didn’t initially report the incident following Argentina’s 1-0 win in Buenos Aires on Thursday. Messi scored the only goal from a first-half penalty.
Video footages clearly showed Messi reacting angrily later in the game when assistant referee Emerson Carvalho flagged him for fouling an opponent. He waved his arms and shouted profane insults at the assistant. After the match, Messi even refused to shake hands with Carvalho.
Argentine news outlet Ole published documents from the FIFA inquiry, that quote head referee Ricci as saying he wasn’t aware that Messi had insulted any official.
“I did not hear any offensive language from Messi or anyone else towards myself, besides the normal players’ complaints (especially raising their hands) [sic] during the match. If I had heard any offensive word, I would have acted in according the rules of the game.”