Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi was handed a four-match ban and fined 10,000 Swiss francs by FIFA's disciplinary panel for verbally abusing a match official in Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Chile.
Also read: Argentina lose to Bolivia without Messi
Messi was seen as saying 'la concha de tu madre', which translates as 'your mother's ****' in the direction of Brazilian linesman Emerson Augusto do Carvalho at the end of the match, after being fouled by Jean Beausejour. Despite video evidence showing that Messi was looking at the linesman while making those comments, the Argentine said that wasn't the case.
"My comments were never directed at the first assistant, they were comments made to the air," Messi told La Nacion.
Messi has already served the first of his four-match ban when he sat out Argentina's 2-0 loss to Bolivia and is also set to miss the away match to Uruguay in August and home matches against Venezuela and Peru in September and October.
Argentina could miss out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, considering how dependent they are on Messi. He scored the winning goal against Chile and they ended up losing 2-0 against Bolivia, a match they were expected to win considering the stars that were on display even without Messi.
Argentina will be hoping to reduce their player's ban and Marcelo Tinelli, head of Argentina's national teams committee, said that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) will make an appeal.
"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 specialise in sporting law. It [the ban] really took us by surprise because we never thought it would be so harsh," Tinelli was quoted as saying.
Barcelona also expressed their surprise at the FIFA Disciplinary Committee's action to ban Messi for four matches and offered him their support.
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"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," Barcelona said in a statement.
"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."
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