Paranoid Pique is right this time: Messi's four-match ban is a farce

COMMENT

Just because Gerard Pique’s paranoid, does not mean that he’s not occasionally right. "I am not the person to discuss a decision of FIFA," the Barcelona defender correctly pointed out on Tuesday evening, "but it seems an outrage to me that they have given Messi four matches." Again, Pique was spot on.

The decision to suspend Messi for four Argentina matches – starting with Tuesday’s loss in Bolivia – was staggering.

Ramos hits back at Pique

First things first, Pique had an agenda. He always has an agenda, which is propagating the belief that Barcelona are continually mistreated by the media while Real Madrid receive preferential treatment from both match and government officials.

Therefore, it was not in the least bit surprising that he leapt to the defence of his Blaugrana team-mate, particularly as he himself has previous in this regard, having been banned for four games for an equally foul-mouthed tirade against a linesman during a Supercopa de Espana clash with Athletic Bilbao in August 2015.

It was also only a matter of time before the Catalan club weighed in.

Messi

"FC Barcelona considers the four-match suspension finally imposed on the Argentine player to be unfair and totally disproportionate,” read a statement released on Wednesday.

"The club wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the pitch."

Is AFA to blame for Messi ban?

Only Messi’s behaviour in Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Chile wasn’t exemplary. Towards the end of Argentina’s 1-0 win, he reacted furiously to the decision to award a foul against him and verbally abused referee’s assistant Marcelo Van Gasse.

He even petulantly refused to shake the official’s hand at the full-time whistle. Messi, thus, deserved to be reprimanded for his childish and disrespectful behaviour. What he did not deserve, though, was a four-game ban.

Referees are regularly verbally abused and FIFA should attempt to clean up the game by instructing its officials to book and dismiss players who insult them.

They could go even further by taking a leaf out of rugby’s book by insisting that only captains be allowed to challenge referees over contentious decisions, thus ridding the game of the sight of referees being surrounded, intimidated and sometimes even physically manhandled by groups of irate players.

Lionel Messi Menotti PS

Those that disobey the rules should then be heavily punished. The thing is, though, that FIFA, UEFA and other governing bodies have not been doing that. In the past, we have seen FIFA attempt to show support for their referees and linesmen - but it has not been sustained.

So many verbal insults have gone, and are going, unpunished on a weekly basis. There needs to be consistency in the application of the rules, not sporadic suspensions that serve only to create confusion and provoke accusations of injustice.

Wayne Rooney pointed this out as far back as 2011 when he was banned for two games for swearing into a television camera. "Unlike others who have been caught swearing on camera, I apologised immediately, and yet I am the only person banned for swearing," the Manchester United attacker moaned. "That doesn’t seem right."

Messi-less Argentina could miss World Cup

Messi’s ban is just as random - and even more disproportionate. Former Argentina boss Cesar Luis Menotti was, thus, correct when he stated: "I think four matches is nonsense. There are actions that are ill-intended and sometimes they only give them [a ban for] two matches. This was something verbal. The sanction is excessive."

Indeed, to put it into context, Messi has been banned for as many games as Daniele De Rossi was for savagely elbowing Brian McBride in the face during the 2006 World Cup, an assault that left the American requiring stitches.

There is a huge difference between foul play and foul language – and the powers-that-be need to acknowledge that. They need to get their priorities right.

Seamus Coleman Ireland Wales WC Qualifier

On the same night that Messi insulted a match official, Wales defender Neil Taylor put Seamus Coleman’s career in jeopardy with a shocking challenge that fractured two bones in the Republic of Ireland captain’s leg.

As it stands, Taylor is facing nothing more than a one-game ban for the straight red card he received for the assault. Messi, by contrast, has already been suspended for one game and is scheduled to be sidelined for another three.

Why are we still waiting for FIFA to make a ruling on possibly increasing the length of Taylor's suspension when Messi has already been sanctioned before having had the chance to appeal? There is something not right there.There is something wrong with football's judicial system when even Pique has a point.

Match officials deserve more respect. That is beyond dispute. But the rules of the game are primarily about protecting players from bad challenges – not officials from bad words.

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