Argentina soccer superstar Lionel Messi was suspended Friday from international matches with his national team for three months after he accused Copa América organizers of corruption.
Soccer body CONMEBOL said Messi was also fined $50,000 for his remarks that came just after Argentina’s 2-1 win against Chile in the third-place playoff of the tournament in July.
Messi said the tournament organizers were “corrupt” and the cup itself was “fixed for Brazil” to win, sparking an uproar in the soccer world.
“We don't have to be part of this corruption,” said Messi as he avoided the medal ceremony. “They have showed us a lack of respect throughout this tournament.”
“Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don't allow people to enjoy football. They ruined it a bit.”
“Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don't allow people to enjoy football. They ruined it a bit,” he added.
The 32-year-old Argentine -- who plays club soccer for Spain's FC Barcelona -- also complained against Copa América refereeing after Argentina’s 2-0 loss to Brazil in the semifinals. He also dismissed the concerns that he could be suspended for the remarks, saying “the truth needed to be told,” though he later sent an apology to the soccer federation.
Messi and Argentina can appeal the decision that stops him from playing in the upcoming friendlies against Chile, Mexico and Germany in September and October.
But he’s also already suspended from the first match of the South American World Cup qualifiers next March because of the red card, which he claims was undeserved, that he received against Chile.
He was sent off for only the second time in his career after a shoving match with Chile midfielder Gary Medel, who also was sent off the pitch.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.