Barcelona defends Messi over 'unfair' suspension

Associated Press

March 29, 2017

        

In this photo taken March 23, 2017 Argentina's Lionel Messi gestures during a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying soccer match between Argentina and Chile at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Messi has been banned from Argentina's next four World Cup qualifiers, starting with Tuesday's game in Bolivia, for "having directed insulting words at an assistant referee" during a home qualifier against Chile on Thursday, FIFA said hours before kickoff in La Paz.

BARCELONA, Spain Barcelona says Lionel Messi's four-match international suspension for insulting a linesman was "unfair and totally disproportionate."

Barcelona released a statement Wednesday expressing "its surprise and indignation" with FIFA's decision to sideline the playmaker for so long following the incident in Argentina's win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.

The punishment was announced before Argentina lost at Bolivia 2-0 Tuesday, a result that left the two-time champions at risk of not qualifying for next year's World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona says it "wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the field."

Pending an appeal, Messi will only be available to play in Argentina's final qualifier, on Oct. 10 against Ecuador.