Argentine captain, Lionel Messi, will now rejoin the South America team after his four-match ban was rescinded by world football governing body, FIFA, upon appeal.
The Barcelona forward had been banned from playing in their subsequent qualifier against Bolivia, which the World Cup 2014 finalists lost.
“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,” FIFA said in a statement on Friday.
“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 March 28 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 March 28 2017, and the fine of £7,800 have been lifted.”
The five times Ballon D’Or winner have continually been pleading his innocence.
“I vehemently deny having offended assistant referee 1 during the game against Chile, and more so do not believe that my conduct falls under article 57 of FIFA’s disciplinary code,” he said back in March.
“One of the assistant referees, of Brazilian nationality, perfectly understood what I was saying, so much so that we spoke amicably and at no time did my words offend or insult the official.
“If any of my words made assistant referee 1 uncomfortable, they were never directed at him but rather to the air and for that, I apologise.”
He will now be available to Argentina for crucial qualification fixtures against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru.
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