Barca be­rate Fifa’s Messi ban

Ar­gen­tine banned for four matches af­ter tirade

The National - News - Sport - - LEADINGOFF -

Messi will miss the qual­i­fiers in Uruguay in Au­gust, at home to Venezuela the fol­low month and at home to Peru in Oc­to­ber

Barcelona have branded the four-game in­ter­na­tional ban handed to Lionel Messi for abus­ing an as­sis­tant ref­eree “un­just and to­tally dis­pro­por­tion­ate”.

The Cata­lan club re­leased an an­gry state­ment ex­press­ing their “sur­prise and out­rage” at the pun­ish­ment dished out to their star player.

Barca said Messi was an “ex­em­plary sports­man” as they leapt to his de­fence. The Ar­gentina for­ward was also fined 10,000 Swiss Francs (Dh37,000) by Fifa on Tues­day for “hav­ing di­rected in­sult­ing words’’ at an of­fi­cial dur­ing his side’s 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier against Chile last Thurs­day. He was caught on camera vent­ing his fury at an as­sis­tant who sig­nalled he had com­mit­ted a foul late on in Ar­gentina’s 1-0 win. He was not shown a card at the time. The 29-year-old for­ward missed Tues­day’s 2-0 de­feat to Bo­livia and will also be banned for Ar­gentina’s next three World Cup qual­i­fiers un­less an ap­peal is suc­cess­ful.

Messi will miss the qual­i­fiers in Uruguay in Au­gust, at home to Venezuela the fol­low­ing month and at home to Peru in Oc­to­ber, meaning he will only be able to re­turn for Ar­gentina’s fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing match away to Ecuador.

His in­ter­na­tional ab­sence should ben­e­fit his club side, but Barca have still is­sued a strong state­ment con­demn­ing the sanc­tion.

“FC Barcelona ex­press their sur­prise and out­rage at the of­fi­cial de­ci­sion of the Fifa dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee to sanc­tion Leo Messi af­ter the World Cup qual­i­fy­ing match be­tween Ar­gentina and Chile,” the club’s state­ment read. “The club con­sider the four-game ban im­posed upon the player un­just and to­tally dis­pro­por­tion­ate.

“Fi­nally, FC Barcelona want to re­it­er­ate their sup­port for Leo Messi, an ex­em­plary sports­man for his be­hav­iour on and off the pitch.”

Ar­gentina’s de­feat to Bo­livia left them with a fight on their hands to qual­ify for the World Cup in Rus­sia.

They lie in fifth place in the South Amer­i­can qual­i­fy­ing group, with only the top four guar­an­teed qual­i­fi­ca­tion, al­though only two points sep­a­rate them from sec­ond-placed Colom­bia.

Messi’s con­tin­ued ab­sence could, there­fore, prove costly, al­though Ar­gentina have promised to ap­peal, with Jorge Mi­a­dosqui, the Ar­gentina team sec­re­tary, say­ing: “The de­ci­sion doesn’t cor­re­spond with the re­al­ity based on what was put in the ref­eree’s re­port.”

Fifa said when an­nounc­ing its de­ci­sion that the sus­pen­sion was “in line with the Fifa dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee’s pre­vi­ous rul­ings in sim­i­lar cases”.

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