Lionel Messi is allowed to play for Argentina in their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers after his suspension for allegedly abusing an assistant referee was overturned on appeal.
Messi, 29, was suspended from four international matches and fined 10,000 Swiss francs (£8,100) for supposedly “having directed insulting words” at an official during Argentina’s CONMEBOL region World Cup qualifying meeting with Chile on 23 March.
In the match, Messi was caught on camera venting his fury at an assistant who signalled he had committed a foul late on in Argentina’s 1-0 win. He was not shown a card at the time.
As a result, Messi was banned from playing for Argentina in their 2-0 defeat to Bolivia but will return to contention as the South American nation prepare for crucial meetings with Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru as they fight to secure a place at next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
A statement from the sport’s world governing body, FIFA published on Friday read: “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.”
However, while FIFA said that the evidence available was not sufficient to establish” an infringement had occurred, the organization emphasized that “considered Messi’s behaviour as reproachable”.
Argentina is currently without a head coach after the departure of Edgardo Bauza last month, and risk missing out on automatic qualification for 2018 World Cup and to that end the trip to Uruguay in late August will be vital. If picked, Messi will remain in South America to face Venezuela on 5 September.
As the Albiceleste tackle Peru in October they will have hoped to climb into the top four places in the CONMEBOL standings.