Barcelona have released a statement expressing their “surprise and indignation” at FIFA’s decision to hand Lionel Messi a four-match international ban for verbally abusing a match official in Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Chile last week.
Barca star Messi was dealt the suspension and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160) by FIFA’s disciplinary panel and is due to miss three more of Argentina’s remaining four World Cup qualifiers after sitting out the 2-0 defeat against Bolivia on Tuesday.
FIFA said the Argentina captain was guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee,” but Barca have come out in defense of their player.
A Barcelona statement read: “FC Barcelona expresses its surprise and indignation at the ex officio action by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee by suspending the player Leo Messi following the FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture between Argentina and Chile.
“The club considers the four-match suspension finally imposed on the Argentine player to be unfair and totally disproportionate.
“Finally, FC Barcelona wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the pitch.”
Barcelona striker Luis Suarez also said the ban handed down to his teammate Messi is unfair.
“I find Messi’s ban totally excessive,” he told Sport 890. “Now they will have to do the same with all the players that hurl insults.”
Marcelo Tinelli, head of Argentina’s national teams committee, said Messi’s punishment sets a precedent for other players and announced that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) will appeal to have the ban reduced.
He told Ole: “We will appeal the decision because it’s unjust and arbitrary. Messi had never done this before. We are talking with the AFA lawyers and others that specialize in sporting law. It [the ban] really took us by surprise because we never thought it would be so harsh.”
Former Argentina coach Cesar Luis Menotti says Messi’s ban is too severe.
“What he did wasn’t that serious,” Menotti told Cadena Ser. “Messi’s ban is excessive. He made a mistake and he should be punished but not with four games. Messi has never done that before, not with the national team or with Barcelona.”
Menotti argued that the pressure that once led Messi to briefly retire from international duty after losing his third final with Argentina last summer was the reason for the player’s uncharacteristic reaction against Chile.
“I think this [Messi’s reaction] is linked with the despair that there is in Argentina’s football and that is transmitted to the players,” Menotti said. “Messi has led Argentina to three finals and he is under pressure to deliver. Someone should explain to Messi that he is not responsible for making Argentina win but rather to help Argentina play better. Of course, to replace Messi is impossible.”
First seen on ESPN