Messi ban over, can play against Ecuador - AFA president

Lionel Messi can play in Argentina’s opening World Cup qualifier because the statute of limitations has run out on his ban, says Claudio Tapia.

Lionel Messi runs with the ball during a friendly match between Brazil and Argentina at King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 15, 2019.   -  AP

Lionel Messi can play in Argentina’s opening World Cup qualifier next month because the statute of limitations has run out on the ban he was given during last year’s Copa America, the president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) said on Thursday.

Messi was banned for one game after being sent off in the Copa America third-place playoff against Chile and for levelling accusations of “corruption” at South American football chiefs.

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Messi had been expected to serve the ban by missing Argentina’s qualifier against Ecuador that is scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires on October 8. However, Claudio Tapia said he had consulted with the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) president Alejandro Dominguez, who “confirmed the statute of limitations had expired and that he (Messi) is able to play,” the AFA said on Twitter.

The Barcelona forward was shown the red card after clashing with Gary Medel and afterwards he alleged the tournament had been fixed in favour of the host Brazil, which beat Argentina in a controversial semifinal on its way to claiming the title.

Argentina, which last won the World Cup in 1986, kicks off its qualifying campaign with a double header at home to Ecuador and away to Bolivia.

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