Messi’s ban rescinded after ‘insufficient evidence’

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messi suspension lifted

Argentina’s hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup were given a huge boost on Friday after FIFA overturned Lionel Messi’s four-game ban for swearing at an assistant referee.

FIFA said there was not enough evidence to support the stiff punishment meted out in March to the 29-year-old Barcelona striker, who is central to Argentina’s faltering bid to get to Russia 2018.

Football’s governing body said its appeal committee sided with a challenge filed on Messi’s behalf by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) 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 international ban.

The ruling also means Messi will be spared the 10,000 Swiss francs (9,200 euros) fine.

The superstar was originally 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 officials conceded that Messi’s foul-mouthed tirade was wrong but argued that FIFA’s sanction was disproportionate and politically motivated.