July 10 – Lionel Messi’s much-publicised altercation with Conmebol, whom he accused of fixing Argentina’s Copa America semi-final in favour of hosts Brazil, could land the Barcelona star with a potential two-year ban according to local reports.
Messi’s extraordinary outburst partly overshadowed Brazil’s title triumph when he told reporters following Argentina’s third-place playoff win over Chile: “We don’t have to be part of this corruption. I think the cup is fixed for Brazil.”
Messi was primarily referring to the fact that Argentina were denied a couple of penalties in their 2-0 defeat to the hosts and also suggested that the red card he received in the match against Chile, only the second of his entire career, was due to the comments he made on the refereeing.
Conmebol issued an immediate statement insisting all 12 nations were treated the same way, calling Messi’s accusations “unfounded” and saying CONMEBOL had since 2016 “been tirelessly working to be transparent, professionalize and develop South American football.”
Now it is being reported that under article 7 of the CONMEBOL rulebook, Messi could be banned for up to two years for “Behaving in an offensive, insulting way or making defamatory statements of any kind.”
If Messi indeed gets such a sanction, he will miss both the qualification for 2022 World Cup in Qatar and 2020 Copa America in Argentina and Colombia although it is likely Conmebol would stop short of imposing such a serious sanction against its biggest individual draw. Having said that, Messi has already been handed a four-match ban for arguing with an official in 2017 during a World Cup qualifier. That was later reduced to one game.
Whatever happens he is almost certain to be hit with a ban of at least one match because of his red card, which will be served in a World Cup qualifier when they begin in March of 2020.
Brazil’s Dani Alves, Messi’s Barcelona teammate, has branded his comments “unacceptable” despite their long-term affinity.
“A friend is not always right just because he’s a friend. You can say it in the heat of the moment, but I still won’t agree,” said Alves
“Firstly, he’s disrespecting an institution such as the Selecao, in my view. Secondly, he’s being disrespectful with several professionals who put a lot of things aside so they could be there fighting for a dream.
“I’m a friend who always tells the truth when it’s due, and I think he was wrong for saying these things.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org