Lionel Messi has been banned from Argentina’s next four games after he insulted an official during Thursday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Chile on Thursday, FIFA announced Tuesday.

Lionel Messi Banned Four Games for Insulting Linesman

The suspension was handed down just hours before Argentina’s World Cup qualifier in La Paz, Bolivia on Tuesday at 4 pm EST. This game would be the first of the four Messi, 29, would miss. After Bolivia, Argentina next play Uruguay in August, Venezuela in September and Peru in October. Messi would thus only be able to play in Argentina’s final World Cup qualifier in Ecuador on Oct. 10.

Manny soccer commentators and other prominent figures were surprised by the severity of the ban: most seemed to expect a ban of just one or two games.

Messi, Barcelona’s star forward, was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs, or about $10,200.


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“The federation will appeal, as it should,” Argentina’s team secretary Jorge Miadosqui told Agence France-Presse. “We feel powerless, surprised.”

As reported by Daniel Edwards of Goal, Messi was angry with linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Chile. The Barcelona forward allegedly yelled “f–k off, your mother’s c–t” at Van Gasse. Messi was also called for a foul by assistant referee Emerson Carvalho in the second half, and began arguing and shouting with Carvalho, a Brazilian. He did not receive a yellow or red card for his behavior at that moment. Messi also refused to shake Carvalho’s hand following the game. The Barcelona star scored Argentina’s only goal on a penalty.

CONMEBOL, the South American World Cup qualifying confederation to which Argentina belongs, was reportedly notified of the incident on Monday.

After 13 of 18 games played, Argentina is third in South American qualifying, with four teams advancing automatically. The Albiceleste are only two points ahead of sixth-place Chile and four points ahead of seventh-place Paraguay.

Argentina will surely be hurt by the absence of Messi in their final five Russia World Cup qualifiers. Messi is the team’s leading scorer with four goals in qualifying games.

At least one Argentine official was not expecting a suspension. “I think Messi is going to play,” Armando Pérez of the Argentine federation told TyC Sports, a sports channel in Argentina. “I do not see many arguments. FIFA is very punctilious.”

Argentina has come very close to winning international tournaments in the last three years. The team was the runner-up in the 2014 World Cup (which Germany won), and lost to Chile in the Copa America final in both 2015 and 2016. In the 2016 Copa America final, Messi missed a key penalty against Chile by firing the ball over the crossbar of a goal guarded by his Barcelona teammate, keeper Claudio Bravo. After that mistake that cost Argentina the game, a frustrated Messi initially announced his retirement from international soccer, but then said a few weeks later that he would return to play for his country’s national team.

Hopefully for his team and his fans, Messi will benefit from his time off. Argentina has not missed a World Cup since 1970.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina takes the ball as Jean Beausejour #15 of Chile defends during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.Chile defeated Argentina 0-0 with the 4-2 win in the shootout. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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