Barcelona superstar and Argentine international, Lionel Messi, has won an appeal against his four-match ban by FIFA for verbally abusing a referee after Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Messi will be available for Argentina’s qualifying run-in in CONMEBOL, including home games against Peru and cellar-dwellers, Venezuela, as well as trips to arch-rivals, Uruguay, on August 31, and Ecuador on the final match day in October. The five-time Ballon D’or winner was handed the ban retroactively by FIFA in late March and fined 10,000 Swiss francs.
Argentina were defeated 2-0 by Bolivia in La Paz without Messi’s services, leaving them in fifth in the CONMEBOL qualifying standings, two points ahead of Ecuador. As it stands, they would have to negotiate a playoff against the winner of the Oceania region.
FIFA cited insufficient evidence as the reason for lifting Messi’s ban.
“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.
“In view of the above decision, the match suspension imposed on Lionel Messi, which entered into force on 28 March 2017, and the fine of 10,000 Swiss francs have been lifted.” – statement by FIFA on Lionel Messi
Messi has scored four goal so far in qualifying and is seeking a fourth consecutive World Cup berth.