Lionel Messi banned for four matches even though officials did not hear insult

Luke Brown
Messi will miss four of Argentina's five remaining qualifying games: Getty

An Argentinian newspaper has published a letter written by Fifa to the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) which reveals that none of the four match officials were aware of the “insulting words” which have resulted in Lionel Messi being banned for four matches.

The letter also confirms that the incident was brought to Fifa’s attention by the media.

Fifa handed a four-match ban to Messi on Tuesday after ruling that the 29-year-old had verbally abused a match official during Argentina’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Chile last week.

Television pictures showed him swearing at Brazilian linesman Emerson Augusto do Carvalho at the end of the match after being harried and fouled by Chilean player Jean Beausejour. The official patted him on the head and tried to calm him down but Messi kept ranting.

Fifa wrote a letter to the Argentine Football Association (AFA) explaining their decision, which has since been published by the Argentine newspaper Olé.

According to the letter, Carvalho said he did not understand at the time what Messi was saying.

The letter, published in Olé, confirms the officials did not hear what Messi said (Olé)

"I only realised he was swearing afterwards on reading the press," he said.

“After a foul committed by Messi, who was next to me, at the end of the game, I saw that he complained against that fault by raising his hands and saying something that I did not understand at the time.”

The letter also features a statement from the match referee, Sandro Ricci, who also says he did not hear what Messi said.

“I did not hear any offensive language from Messi or anyone else towards myself, besides the normal players' complaints (specially raising their hands) during the match,” the document quotes Ricci as saying.

“If I had heard any offensive word, I would have acted in according the rules of the game.”

The document also includes statements made by Carvalho's linesman as well as the fourth official, who also deny hearing the offensive words used by Messi.

Lionel Messi during the Copa America final against Chile (Getty)

Messi, 29, will also miss games away to Uruguay and home to Venezuela and Peru. The Barcelona forward will be eligible again when Argentina visit Ecuador on Oct. 10.

Argentina are third in the 10-team South American group with 22 points from 13 games but have only a two-point cushion over sixth-placed Chile, with Colombia (21) and Ecuador (20) sandwiched in between.

The top four qualify directly for the tournament in Russia and the fifth side play off against a team from a different confederation for another place.

"This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases," FIFA said in a statement published on their website.

The AFA has already confirmed that they will appeal the ban.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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