Soccer

Messi wins FIFA appeal, remaining 3 matches of ban lifted

Argentina captain Lionel Messi was cleared by FIFA on Friday to play in the next three World Cup qualifiers after a ban for insulting a referee's assistant was lifted.

Soccer star had been suspended for verbally abusing an assistant referee

FIFA had banned Lionel Messi four matches for verbally abusing an assistant referee during a home qualifier against Chile in March. (Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press)

Argentina captain Lionel Messi was cleared by FIFA on Friday to play in the next three World Cup qualifiers after a ban for insulting a referee's assistant was lifted.

Messi already served one match of the four-match ban that was imposed when the FIFA disciplinary committee gave its ruling hours before Argentina's 2-0 loss in Bolivia in March.

"We are very happy that FIFA once again has credibility at AFA and that we can count on Leo Messi," Claudio Tapia, the head of the Argentine Football Association, wrote on his Instagram account.

FIFA said its appeal committee considered Messi's behaviour "reproachable" for verbally abusing a linesman late in a 1-0 win over Chile on March 23. But the panel concluded the "evidence available was not sufficient to establish to the appropriate standard" required for the disciplinary committee to impose the initial suspension.

"The appeal committee nevertheless underlines the importance of always showing respect to the match officials, stressing that such a principle is essential in football and any unsporting conduct that may be contrary to the principles of fair play cannot be accepted," FIFA said in a statement.

Argentina's next World Cup qualifier is at Uruguay on Aug. 31.

Argentina is fifth in the 10-team South American group with four games left. The 2014 World Cup runner-up is in line to advance to a November playoff against a team from Oceania, likely to be New Zealand.

Muntari's ban lifted

The Italian soccer federation has rescinded Sulley Muntari's one-match ban for walking off the field in response to racist abuse during a Serie A game. 

The Pescara player received a yellow card at Cagliari for protesting about the abuse and was booked again for leaving the field without following procedures. The Ghanaian's two yellow cards amounted to a red and an automatic one-game ban. 

It was lifted on Friday, following global protests, by the Italian football federation's appeal court.

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