Lionel Messi was barred for Argentina’s next four games after he used “insulting words” to an official, FIFA ruled on Tuesday.
The length of the suspension was a surprise: Many commentators and soccer figures were expecting a one- or two-game ban, at most.
The ban begins immediately: Messi will miss Tuesday’s qualifier against Bolivia. It does not apply to games for his club, Barcelona.
He was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs, or about $10,200.
The suspension came only hours before the game: Argentina was due to kick off in La Paz, Bolivia, at 4 p.m., Eastern time.
“The federation will appeal, as it should,” team secretary Jorge Miadosqui told Agence France-Presse. “We feel powerless, surprised.”
Messi was called for a foul by the assistant referee Emerson Carvalho in the second half of Thursday’s game in Chile. He strongly…