Lionel Messi has asserted his innocence in a letter to FIFA after being hit with a four-match
international ban, saying he was yelling "to the air" and not verbally abusing a match official.
Barcelona star Messi was dealt the suspension and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160) by FIFA's disciplinary panel following his actions in Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Chile last week. He is due to miss three more of Argentina's remaining four World Cup qualifiers after sitting out the 2-0 defeat against Bolivia on Tuesday.
FIFA considers Messi to have breached the article by displaying "offensive behaviour" towards the assistant, but in a nine-paragraph letter, published in full by Mundo Deportivo on Thursday, Messi claimed his words had not been aimed at the official.
"I vehemently deny having offended assistant referee 1 during the game against Chile, and more so do not believe that my conduct falls under article 57 of FIFA's disciplinary code," he wrote.
"Assistant referee 1, of Brazilian nationality, perfectly understood what I was saying, so much so that we spoke amicably and at no time did my words offend or insult the official.
"If any of my words made assistant referee 1 uncomfortable, they were never directed at him but rather to the air and for that, I apologise."He concluded by writing: "I hereby expressly request for the disciplinary case to be dismissed without any sanction against me."