World football’s governing body FIFA on Friday lifted its four match international suspension of Barcelona star Lionel Messi after an appeal by the Argentine Football Association.
Messi, who has already served one match of that suspension, was banned for insulting an assistant referee during Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match with Chile on March 23.
“The FIFA Appeal Committee has upheld the appeal lodged by the Argentinian Football Association, on behalf of the player Lionel Messi, against the decision taken by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, lifting the sanctions imposed on him as a result,” an official statement by FIFA said.
“Following a hearing which took place in Zurich on 4 May 2017, the Appeal Committee has set aside the decision taken by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee on 28 March 2017, which, in application of art. 77 a) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC), had found Lionel Messi guilty of infringing art. 57 of the FDC for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.”
The 29-year-old was suspended after he allegedly abused the assistant referee during a heated discussion after he was called for a couple of fouls.
FIFA, however, asserted that abusive behaviour by players towards officials cannot be condoned and warned Messi to be careful in future.
“Despite the fact that the FIFA Appeal Committee considered Lionel Messi’s behaviour as reproachable, the former concluded that the evidence available was not sufficient to establish to the appropriate standard, i.e. to the comfortable satisfaction of the members of the Appeal Committee, that art. 77 a) of the FDC, according to which the Disciplinary Committee is responsible for sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention, could be applied,” the statement said.
“The Appeal Committee nevertheless underlines the importance of always showing respect to the match officials, stressing that such a principle is essential in football and any unsporting conduct that may be contrary to the principles of fair play cannot be accepted.
“In view of the above decision, the suspension for four matches imposed on Lionel Messi, which entered into force on 28 March 2017, and the fine of CHF 10,000 have been lifted,” it added.
Argentina’s next World Cup qualifier is against Uruguay on August 31 at Montevideo.