Copa America 2019

Conmebol returns fire at Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi complaining to referee Mario Diaz de Vivar after he and Chile's Gary Medel (out of frame) were sent off in the third-place play-off on Saturday.
Argentina's Lionel Messi complaining to referee Mario Diaz de Vivar after he and Chile's Gary Medel (out of frame) were sent off in the third-place play-off on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Governing body slams superstar for baseless claims in wake of red card in Copa play-off

RIO DE JANEIRO • South American football's governing body Conmebol hit back at Argentina captain Lionel Messi on Saturday night after he accused the organisation of corruption.

The Barcelona forward lashed out after he was sent off during La Albiceleste's 2-1 fractious, third-place Copa America play-off win over Chile in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala netted for Argentina, while Arturo Vidal converted from the spot after the break, but the talking point was all about Messi's harsh red card.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was involved in seemingly innocuous tangle with Chile captain Gary Medel, but both players were given their marching orders by referee Mario Diaz de Vivar in the first half.

It was just his second red card of his career - the first coming on his international debut in 2005 - and the incident was the last straw for Messi, who boycotted the medal ceremony and later claimed the "whole thing is set up for Brazil".

He said: "I didn't want to be part of this corruption, we shouldn't have to be part of this disrespect we suffered during the Copa America.

COUNT ME OUT

I didn't want to be part of this corruption, we shouldn't have to be part of this disrespect we suffered during the Copa America.

LIONEL MESSI, Argentina captain, who claimed the tournament was set up to favour hosts Brazil.

"We could have gone further, but we weren't allowed into the final...

"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."

He also implied the red card was "repercussions" for comments made in the wake of Brazil's 2-0 semi-final win over Argentina - the Argentinian Football Association has since submitted a formal complaint over referee Roddy Zambrano's decision not to consult the video assistant referee for two penalty shouts during the match.

Medel also agreed the sending-off was excessive, telling Argentinian daily La Nacion "the referee could've handled that a lot better".

However, Conmebol took a dim view, blasting Messi for making "unfounded and untrue accusations that call into question the integrity of the Copa America".

In a statement posted on its social media accounts, the body said: "In football, sometimes, you win and sometimes, you lose and a fundamental pillar of fair play is to accept the results with loyalty and respect.

"The same goes for decisions of referees, who are human and will not always be perfect.

"These accusations are a lack of respect to the competition, to all footballers participating... and the hundreds of professionals at Conmebol, an institution that since 1916 has been tirelessly working to improve transparency, professionalism and development of South American football."

UNFOUNDED & UNTRUE

These accusations are a lack of respect to the competition, to all footballers participating... and the hundreds of professionals at Conmebol.

CONMEBOL SPOKESMAN, responding to the Argentinian's accusations.

Messi could now face a lengthy international ban on top of his red card following his rant.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2019, with the headline 'Conmebol returns fire at Messi'. Print Edition | Subscribe