Argentina captain Lionel Messi has been banned for one game and fined £1,200 after being sent off against Chile in the Copa America third-place playoff and levelling accusations of “corruption” at South American soccer chiefs.
Messi was shown the red card after clashing with Gary Medel and afterwards alleged that the tournament had been fixed in favour of the hosts Brazil, who beat Argentina in a controversial semi-final on their way to claiming the title.
Messi called the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) “corrupt” and did not attend the ceremony to pick up his medal.
The Barcelona player said: “There is no doubt, the whole thing is set up for Brazil.
“I did not want to be part of this corruption, we shouldn’t have to be part of this disrespect we suffered during the Copa America.
“We could have gone further but we weren’t allowed into the final. Corruption, referees and all the rest stopped people from enjoying the football.
“I always tell the truth and I’m honest, that is what keeps me calm if what I say has repercussions that is not my business.”
The comments came after Messi refused to collect his bronze medal following the contentious red card.
CONMEBOL said on Tuesday that Messi’s comments were “unacceptable” but backed down from imposing a tougher sanction on the five-times world player of the year.
The ban is expected to be served in Argentina’s first qualifier for the 2022 World Cup.
In another Argentina-related decision on Tuesday, CONMEBOL removed the head of the Argentine Football Association’s Claudio Tapia as their official representative at FIFA.
Tapia also sharply criticised CONMEBOL during and after the Copa America.