ZURICH: Barcelona star Lionel Messi was suspended for four Argentina matches by FIFA on Tuesday for swearing at an assistant referee, a decision the Argentinian federation said had left him feeling “sad”.
Messi was found guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” in the World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday which Argentina won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from the Barcelona hitman.
Messi will miss Argentina’s next South American qualifying game against Bolivia, scheduled for later on Tuesday, with the remainder of the suspension served over his country’s subsequent World Cup qualifiers.
He was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs (9,350 euros, $10,170), with FIFA saying: “This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases.”
Argentina team secretary Jorge Miadosqui, speaking from the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, immediately confirmed that the federation would appeal the ban.
“The federation will appeal as it should,” he said, noting that Messi had not been warned or sanctioned by the referee of the Chile match at the time of the outburst, and nothing had been mentioned in the referee’s match report.
“We feel powerless, surprised,” added Miadosqui, noting that the ban came just hours ahead of the match with Bolivia.
“I’m angry, Messi is sad, like us. He could have played, he travelled to play, he should have played.”
Argentina’s victory over Chile left them in third place overall in the 10-team South American qualifying competition for the World Cup with 22 points from 13 games.
The top four finishers qualify automatically for next year’s finals in Russia.
Argentina have won five of their six World Cup 2018 qualifiers with Messi but only one of seven without the superstar.
They are only two points ahead of Ecuador and Chile in fifth and sixth.