FIFA’s Appeal Committee lifted the ban on Barcelona forward Lionel Messi on Friday, which will now allow him to play in Argentina’s World Cup qualifying games against Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
The soccer star was suspended after dishing some nasty remarks to an assistant referee in the World Cup qualifier against Chile after he was called for a late-game foul. Messi then objected to shake hands with the referee after the game. The ban received a lot of criticism, including from FC Barcelona.
“The FIFA Appeal Committee has upheld the appeal lodged by the Argentine 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,” FIFA said in a statement released Friday. “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 match suspension imposed on Lionel Messi, which entered into force on 28 March 2017, and the fine of CHF 10,000 have been lifted.”
Since the suspension started, Messi has been out for one game, which Argentina lost 2-0 to Bolivia on March 28. The loss bumped Argentina into fifth place in the South American World Cup qualifying standings.
The terms of the suspension stated that Messi would have been out for Argentina’s next three qualifying games, which are in August, September, and October. He would not have been reinstated until Oct. 10 when they take on Ecuador.
Messi was to attend the hearing in Zurich on Thursday, but chose not to attend due to ‘personal reasons’. His lawyer, Juan de Dios Crespo, was happy to get the ban overturned, stating, “I think we did a very good job. We are optimistic based upon a job well done.”
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