Argentina can breathe a huge sigh of relief after FIFA announced that Lionel Messi’s four-match ban has been successfully appealed and the Albiceleste captain is now eligible to play in the remaining World Cup qualifiers.
Messi had been given the suspension for verbally abusing one of the match officials during Argentina’s victory over Chile and has already missed the defeat away to Bolivia but will now be available for August’s crucial trip to Montevideo.
In addition to the suspension being overturned, so too has the fine of 10,000 swiss francs.
A Fifa statement read: “The Fifa Appeal Committee has upheld the appeal lodged by the Argentinian Football Association, on behalf of the player Lionel Messi, against the decision taken by the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, lifting the sanctions imposed on him as a result.
“Following a hearing which took place in Zurich on 4 May 2017, the Appeal Committee has set aside the decision taken by the Fifa Disciplinary Committee on 28 March 2017, which, in application of art. 77 a) of the Fifa Disciplinary Code (FDC), had found Lionel Messi guilty of infringing art. 57 of the FDC for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.
“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.
“The Appeal Committee nevertheless underlines the importance of always showing respect to the match officials, stressing that such a principle is essential in football and any unsporting conduct that may be contrary to the principles of fair play cannot be accepted.
“In view of the above decision, the suspension for four matches imposed on Lionel Messi, which entered into force on 28 March 2017, and the fine of CHF 10,000 have been lifted.”