BUENOS AIRES • South American football's governing body, Conmebol, on Friday night banned Lionel Messi from playing for Argentina for three months and fined him US$50,000 (S$68,846) after he accused the organisation of "corruption" during last month's Copa America in Brazil.
The Barcelona forward made the comments after he was sent off against Chile in the third-place play-off, which Argentina won 2-1.
Messi was already angered after his side's controversial semi-final 2-0 defeat by the Selecao, during which Argentina had two penalty shouts turned down by the referee, and raged that Brazil were "managing a lot in Conmebol these days".
And when he was harshly dismissed along with Chile captain Gary Medel for just his second career red card, he could not contain his anger, claiming the tournament had been "fixed" for the hosts.
"Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football and they're ruining it a bit," said the Argentina skipper, who later apologised for his remarks.
Conmebol's statement on its website did not specify why Messi was being punished, but said it was related to articles 7.1 and 7.2 of its disciplinary regulations as his claims were "unfounded".
One such clause refers to "offensive, insulting behaviour or making defamatory protests of any kind". Another clause mentions "breaching the decisions, directives or orders of the judicial bodies".
The ban, however, means the 32-year-old Messi will only miss a handful of friendly games as Argentina's next competitive fixture is not until March, when the South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar begin.
La Albiceleste have two friendlies lined up in the United States in September against Chile and Mexico and another in October away to Germany.
He will also miss Argentina's first 2022 World Cup qualifier as a result of a one-game ban imposed for the sending-off but otherwise will be available for the rest of their games.
Messi and the Argentine Football Association have a week to appeal Conmebol's decision.