Football

Conmebol hits back at Lionel Messi’s ‘corruption’ allegations

South American football's governing body Conmebol hit back at Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi yesterday, after he accused the body of corruption.

Messi reacted after he was sent off during Argentina's 2-1 Copa America third-place play-off victory against Chile at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo.

The 32-year-old was involved in a tangle with Chile captain Gary Medel, in which Messi appeared to do nothing wrong, but both players were given their marching orders by referee Mario Diaz de Vivar.

"It's unacceptable that as a result of incidents that are a regular part of competition... unfounded and untrue accusations have been launched that call into question the integrity of the Copa America," said Conmebol, in a statement posted on its social media accounts.

Earlier, Messi was scathing in his attack on Conmebol and the competition's referees, after Argentina felt aggrieved for the second match running.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner even accused the governing body of favouring hosts Brazil.

Said Messi: "Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football, and they're ruining it a bit."

"I think there's no doubt that Brazil are going to be champions. The Copa is weighted towards Brazil," he added.

Argentina felt they were denied two clear penalties in their 2-0 semi-final defeat by Brazil , complaining that referee Roddy Zambrano had refused to consult the video assistant referee (VAR) to check the validity of their claims.

Yesterday, Argentina were angered that de Vivar refused to consult VAR to check the incident between Messi and Medel.

Messi had shoved Medel in the back as the Chile captain shepherded the ball out of play.

Medel reacted furiously, chest bumping Messi and seeming to push his head towards the Argentina captain, who didn't react.

Yet both were dismissed by de Vivar.

Messi said his 37th-minute red card was "repercussions" for criticisms he expressed after the defeat to Brazil.

Medel added: "I agree with Messi, I didn't even think we'd get a yellow... The referee could have handled that a lot better."

- AFP

Football