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Lionel Messi faces four matches ban for ‘insulting’ assistant referee

ZURICH – Soccer legend Lionel Messi has been suspended for four Argentina matches by FIFA on Tuesday for swearing at an assistant referee.

Messi was found guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” in the World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday. The match was won by Argentina but the ban has now marred the victory.

Messi will miss Argentina’s next South American qualifying game against Bolivia, scheduled for later on Tuesday, with the remainder of the suspension served over his country’s subsequent World Cup qualifiers.

He was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs (9,350 euros, $10,170). Football regulatory body FIFA clarified that the decision was in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases.

Argentina team secretary Jorge Miadosqui, speaking from the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, immediately confirmed that the federation would appeal the ban as it felt saddened over the decision.

‘We feel powerless, surprised’ added Miadosqui, adding that the ban came just hours ahead of the match with Bolivia.

Argentina’s victory over Chile left them in third place overall in the 10-team South American qualifying competition for the World Cup with 22 points from 13 games. The top four finishers qualify automatically for next year’s finals in Russia.

Argentina have won five of their six World Cup 2018 qualifiers with Messi but only one of seven without the superstar.

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