The Argentina captain has been slapped with a four-game international ban and a fine for insulting an official but claims he's innocent.
“F*** off, your mother’s c***!”, are the words that Leo Messi is alleged to have yelled at an official during Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile last week.
Those words have gotten him and his country into trouble. The four-game ban that has been meted on La Pulga has already seen him miss Argentina’s qualifier vs. Bolivia, a game that ended in a 2-0 defeat for Albiceleste.
It is no secret that the Edgardo Bauza-led side are a very different side without their captain. They are a much poorer side.
That is why the Argentine football federation, the AFA, is determined to appeal the ban and hopefully get Messi back for at least some of the qualifiers against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru.
Messi vs. linesman | Argentina 1-0 Chile | WCQ 23/03/17
As things are Argentina are fifth on the CONMEBOL qualification table with 22 points from 14 games. Only four games remain, and Messi is ineligible for three of them if the ban is upheld.
The stats alone show that Argentina face an almost impossible battle to qualify for Russia without their talisman.
“We are surprised by the decision that has been taken,” national team secretary Jorge Miadosqui said on Tuesday. “We are very angry because of the way it was handled hours before playing.
“We are going to appeal the FIFA sanction. There are previous [examples] to believe the punishment can be decreased. Messi is sad, as we all are. We do not agree with the way in which this was handled.”
Argentina legend Diego Maradona has also joined the cause. The 56-year-old says he will appeal directly to the president of FIFA to reverse the “terrible” punishment.
“Messi’s ban is excessive and terrible,” he told radio La Oral Deportiva. “Very shortly I will meet with Infantino in Bahrain and as usual, I will tell him what I think.”
Messi’s ludicrous plea of innocence
First of all it seems rather incredible that the mild-mannered Barcelona forward would say the words he’s accused of saying.
Nonetheless, the Ballon d’Or winner has not denied it, and has instead tried to excuse himself for having said them. His own testimony would of course be crucial if FIFA were to agree to drop the ban or commute it to fewer games.
“My sayings were never addressed to the assistant, but they were said to the air,” Messi told La Nacion.
Going by the striker’s statement, then, linesman Marcelo Van Gasse has no reason to feel aggrieved. It was not his mother who was insulted but the air’s mother.
It is absolutely absurd, of course, because even going by the footage above, Messi is staring right into Gasse’s face as he shouts whatever words he shouted.
Messi wasn’t angry at the air, but at the linesman. And though players have not been punished this severely for similar offences before, officials deserve respect from all players, even the best one in the world.