South America’s governing body CONMEBOL have hit back at Lionel Messi after the Argentina star accused them of ‘corruption’ following his Copa America red card.
Lionel Messi was a conspicuous absence from the Copa America third-place medal ceremony and blasted CONMEBOL for “corruption” after seeing red in the first half against Chile.
The comments came after Messi refused to collect his bronze medal following the contentious red card.
CONMEBOL hit back at him on Sunday, however, with an official statement describing Messi’s comments as ‘unacceptable.’
It read: ‘In football sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and accepting the outcome of a match with loyalty and respect is a fundamental pillar of fair play. Same goes to the refereeing decisions, that are human and will never be perfect.
‘It’s unacceptable that because of incidents proper to the competitions, where 12 Nations competed in, all in equal condition, there have been unfounded accusations that misrepresent the truth and put to judgement the integrity of Copa America.
‘Said accusations represent a lack of respect for the competition, all the football players involved and the hundreds of professionals of CONMEBOL, institution that since 2016 has been tirelessly working to transparent, professionalize and develop South American football.’
The Barcelona star laid on Argentina’s first goal on Saturday for Sergio Aguero to convert, before Paulo Dybala made it 2-0 within 22 minutes.
It appeared Medel to be the clear aggressor in their clash, referee Mario Diaz de Vivar showed both men the red card while players from both sides continued to join the brawl.
Messi was left bemused by the decision and walked off the pitch, as Argentina held on to win the third place play-off 2-1 despite Arturo Vidal’s penalty after half time.
But when the Argentina team came back out on the Arena Corinthians turf to receive their medals, Leo was nowhere to be seen.
The Albiceleste captain did not take any part in the ceremony, after a Copa where he has hit the headlines more for his outbursts against organisers Brazil and CONMEBOL than his exploits on the pitch.
And when he finally addressed reporters from the stadium he launched a withering condemnation of the competition’s organisation in supposed favour of the hosts.
“There is no doubt, the whole thing is set up for Brazil,” he fired, before suggesting that he paid the price for his previous outburst against the refereeing of the semi final.
“I hope the VAR and referees don’t play any part in the final and that Peru can compete but it looks tough to me.
“I did not want to be part of this corruption, we shouldn’t have to be part of this disrepect we suffered during the Copa America.
“We could have gone further but we weren’t allowed into the final. Corruption, referees and all the rest stopped people from enjoying the football.
“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.
“I think that what happened is because of what I said [against Brazil].
“What I said last time perhaps came back to haunt me. With a yellow card that was the end of it.”