RIO DE JANEIRO – It's not about the red card. It's about what Lionel Messi said and did after Argentina's win over Chile to secure third place in the Copa America.
"We do not have to be part of this corruption, [and] the lack of respect they showed us during this tournament," he said, suppressing the prize-giving ceremony after the match. "Unfortunately, corruption and referees do not allow people to play football."
"I think the trophy is set for Brazil," he added. "I hope VAR and the referees have nothing to do in this final and that Peru can keep up with them because they have the team, although I think it's difficult."
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These are heavy words that rained like boulders on CONMEBOL, grave allegations that blow up Messi's disappointment over the red card for Gary Medel, who frankly appeared to be tough. This is not something he cried after saying goodbye. More than one and a half hours had passed when he basically accused the organizers of having "repaired" the tournament and beat them with the word "C": corruption.
Messi is likely to receive a red card suspension, meaning that his next game for Argentina will take place at the Copa America 2020 (assuming he wants to return), and he could receive further sanctions for his comments after the game , If there's a silver lining, Messi's commentary might dispel the idiotic notion that he's not as interested in Argentina as he is in Barcelona.
Of course, he did not just refer to events in Sao Paulo on Saturday. Like many others, he was outraged that VAR lost two potential penalties in the semi-final against Brazil, who lost 2-0 to Argentina (Arthur vs. Nicolas Otamendi and Dani Alves vs. Sergio Aguero). The Argentine Federation wrote two letters of complaint to CONMEBOL, in which the conversation between Ecuadorian referee Roddy Zambrano and Uruguay's senior VAR official Leodan Gonzalez was recorded in a second one. Help yourself, because they did not publish the audio immediately or the media informed about what happened. There are only three possible explanations and each has fueled all sorts of conspiracy theories. One is that the VAR Zambrano drew attention to the incidents and asked for an on-site check, but he refused and ordered the game to continue. Another is that the VAR told him that his original instinct was correct: there was no foul and this game should continue. And the third is that the VAR communication did not work at all.
First and foremost, Zambrano is clearly to blame. In the second case, it is the fault of the VAR. In the third scenario, CONMEBOL could have easily shed light on this. That they have not only thrown lighter liquid into the fire, which has spurred on all sorts of conspiracy theories.
And what is the result here? They have one of the biggest players of all time, and undoubtedly the biggest player in Copa America, accusing them of corruption. Smart move, what? Moreover, they must now fundamentally take action against Messi, because if they do not, this is a dangerous precedent: anyone can accuse anyone else of being corrupt and getting away with it. (And it's not like they say, "Guess what Leo, you're right, we've fixed it for Brazil, sorry, but the good news is we do not have to banish you …"  Another ban means he will miss a couple of group matches at the next Copa America, provided he has settled down enough to play, which further damages the tournament next year.
Referees make mistakes VAR has the fault If this happened, or if someone accidentally pulled a plug or if – that was the wilder theory – the security team of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro inadvertently (or intentionally?) Talk about it, then say it, things happen.
Instead, CONMEBOL is left with Messi's allegations and a toxic cloud over their showcase tournament be.