Lionel Messi banned four Argentina matches for verbally abusing referee
Lionel Messi has been banned four games by FIFA after TV images showed him verbally abusing a match official in Argentina's 1-0 win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.
The incident was not initially reported by the referee, but FIFA acted retroactively, preventing Messi from playing for the Albiceleste starting with Tuesday's qualifier in Bolivia. Argentina is currently third in CONMEBOL's qualifying standings but only two points clear of sixth place with five qualifiers remaining. The top four teams in CONMEBOL automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fifth-place team is entered into an intercontinental playoff for a final place.
Per FIFA's official ruling:
Footballer Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating art. 57 of the FDC for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.
As a result, Lionel Messi will be suspended for four official matches and sanctioned with a fine of CHF 10,000. The first match for which the sanction will apply is the next fixture in the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ between Bolivia and Argentina, which will be played today, 28 March. The remainder of the sanction will be served over Argentina’s subsequent FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases.
The incident in question apparently happened when Messi was whistled for fouling an opponent. He waved his arms and shouted profane insults at the assistant, and he refused to shake hands with him after the game.