FIFA dealt a four-match ban to Lionel Messi on Tuesday after ruling that the Argentina forward verbally abused a match official in a World Cup qualifying game against Chile last week.
Messi was dealt the suspension and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160) by FIFA’s disciplinary panel. He will miss four of Argentina’s remaining five World Cup qualifiers, including the match against Bolivia on Tuesday night. He can return for Argentina’s final qualifier, away to Ecuador on Oct. 10.
FIFA head referee Ricci said
I did not hear any offensive language from Messi or anyone else towards myself, besides the normal players’ complains (specially 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.
Argentina are third in CONMEBOL qualifying, with the top four automatically qualifying to play in Russia, while the fifth-placed team advances to a playoff. Argentina have struggled throughout most of their World Cup qualifying campaign, but had won their last two matches, with Messi scoring in both, to improve their position.
Argentina Football Association vice-president Armando Perez said:
If he behaved out of place, then he should be penalised like any other player.
Messi will also miss Argentina’s game at Uruguay on Aug. 31, and home games against Venezuela on Sept. 5 and Peru on Oct. 5.