Lionel Messi has been given a four match ban by FIFA earlier today for reportedly insulting a referee during Argentina’s game against Chile. Reports claim that the nation’s captain insulted the assistant referee after he called a foul against him. Messi reportedly said “concha tu madre” to the assistant referee but was not given a card. There are several aspects of this report that seems confusing and it smells a lot like a conspiracy to me. FIFA claims Messi cussed out the referee but the evidence, so far, has yet to truly prove anything.
For one, in situations where a player hurls an insult at a referee or one of his assistants, the player is quickly warned or carded. Since the referees have microphones, communication is effortless and immediate. Therefore, if and when a player does something against the rules, the center ref is called over and the action is discussed amongst the referees. In Messi’s case, the referee was not called over and was not even talked to. If the insult truly was as bad as FIFA makes it seem, the assistant referee would have immediately called over the center referee and Messi would’ve received at least a yellow card on the spot. So how come the assistant didn’t say anything?
Secondly, the center referee himself has admitted he did not hear anything during the game. Sandro Ricci, the center referee for the Argentina vs Chile qualifier, publicly stated that he did not hear Messi insult any of his assistants at any point in the game. Had he heard anything, he says he would’ve carded Messi on the spot. So, if Messi cussed out the assistant referee but the referee himself failed to report it on the spot and the center referee did not hear it… why did they feature it in the match report after the game?
You can also cross Chile players off the suspect list. None of the opposing players claim to have heard Messi insulting the assistant referee. None of the players that were near the crime scene have admitted to hearing anything. Unless Messi practically whispered the insults, not sure where the reports came from. The video footage of Messi discussing with the referee does not show what the Argentine captain said to the assistant referee. The two had arguments on the field and Messi even refused to shake hands with the referee but I have yet to see a video where he clearly cusses out the referee.
The match report claims that Messi said “concha tu madre” as a form of insult to the referee. Though to many in the spanish-speaking world that phrase is an insult, South Americans do not necessarily see it that way. Said phrase is often thrown around amongst South Americans and is not as harsh as it might be in other parts of the World. Players use it consistently both to opposing players and even referees. WIth that being said, how come this particular case was blown out of proportion? If Messi cussed out the referee by saying “concha tu madre”, wouldn’t it be enough with a yellow card DURING the game?
The length of the ban seems absurd to me. Argentina will now have to play four of the last five World Cup qualifiers without the greatest player in the World. They currently sit in third place just two points clear of 5th place Ecuador. Messi would have to miss a complicated game in La Paz, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru and an away feature against second place Uruguay. Just as the qualifiers are winding down, Argentina will be without Messi for the third instance in this qualification period. Argentina played without their captain when Messi retired from the national for a brief moment and when he suffered a groin injury. The team looked lost and magic-less dropping key points to weaker rivals. Along with Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Javier Mascherano, Nicolás Otamendi, Lucas Biglia are all suspended for the next game against Bolivia and both fullbacks Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mercado are out injured. Somehow, Argentina has to find a way to get all three points in the high elevation of La Paz without seven starters.
Argentina win percentage without Messi in this qualifiers : 29%
Argentina win percentage with Messi: 65%
— Martin Pantoja (@MP_persources) March 28, 2017
What makes the ban seem so absurd is the fact that other players have gotten shorter bans for worse incidents. Chile’s Gonzalo Jara was suspended three games after shoving his finger up Cavani’s rear end. Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed his private parts and told referee Mateu Lahoz “you like this huh?” and got no punishment. Pepe blantly stepped on Messi’s hand in 2012 and did not receive punishment. Neil Taylor has yet to receive an extended ban after his horrendous tackle on Seamus Taylor during World Cup qualifiers. Though the FIFA committee is examining a possible four game ban, as of now, Taylor is only suspended a game. All these incidents were awarded a shorter ban than Messi’s verbal altercation with the assistant referee.
Isn’t it kind of weird how FIFA decides to ban Messi just as Argentina seemed to be squeezing into the World Cup? They’re not playing necessarily great but they got three massive points against Chile. But now they want to suspend their best player in such a crucial moment. Isn’t it kind of weird how FIFA delegates have always had very personal relationships to Real Madrid owner Florentino Perez who is on a never ending “Cristiano for Ballon D’Or” campaign. On a year where Messi is putting vastly superior numbers, failing to qualify for the World Cup would clearly cost him the Ballon D’Or. I may be jumping to conclusions but I am merely observing. I’ve seen patterns amongst the decisions FIFA makes. A group that is known for taking bribes.
Nonetheless, many questions have been circling my head since the announcement of Messi’s suspension. Hopefully the answers come out in recent days because as of now, this suspension is absurd. An overly severe suspension for an incident which no one seems to have spoken about until after the game. Kind of weird huh?