world soccer 5.5.2017 04:12 pm

Fifa lifts Messi four-game international ban

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (L) argues with first assistant referee Emerson Augusto de Carvalho at the end of their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia South American qualifier football match against Chile, at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, on March 23, 2017. 
The FIFA on March 28, 2017 suspended Messi for four Argentina games. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (L) argues with first assistant referee Emerson Augusto de Carvalho at the end of their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia South American qualifier football match against Chile, at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, on March 23, 2017. The FIFA on March 28, 2017 suspended Messi for four Argentina games. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA

Fifa on Friday overturned Barcelona star Lionel Messi’s four-game ban from international matches imposed for swearing at an assistant referee, saying there was not enough evidence to support the stiff punishment.

The U-turn is a major boost to Argentina’s hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup in Russia, with the South Americans struggling in regional qualifying.

Fifa said its appeal committee sided with a challenge filed on Messi’s behalf by the Argentine Football Association and lifted “the sanctions imposed on him as a result”.

“Despite the fact that the Fifa Appeal Committee considered Lionel Messi’s behaviour as reproachable” it concluded “the evidence available was not sufficient” to justify a four-game ban.

In March the striker was found guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” in a World Cup qualifier against Chile which Argentina won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from the Barcelona hitman.

Argentine football chief Armando Perez conceded that Messi “made a mistake”, but argued that Fifa’s sanction was disproportionate.

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