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Lionel Messi suspended over Copa America red card

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Argentina star Lionel Messi was hit with a one-game suspension by South American football bosses over his dismissal during the Copa America third-place play-off against Chile earlier this month.

However, CONMEBOL made no mention of Messi’s “corruption” accusation against the regional governing body that he made after receiving his red card.

Messi was harshly dismissed in the first half of Argentina’s 2-1 win over Chile after a clash with defender Gary Medel.

Television images suggested Messi did nothing wrong as Medel appeared to repeatedly try, unsuccessfully, to headbutt the Barcelona forward.

While most observers acknowledged that the Chile captain deserved to be sent off, Paraguayan referee Mario Diaz de Vivar controversially also gave Messi his marching orders.

CONMEBOL’s disciplinary commission hit Messi with “an automatic one-match suspension,” adding late on Tuesday that it could not be appealed by the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

It means the 32-year-old five-time Ballon d’Or winner will miss the first of Argentina’s qualification matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, due to be played in March. He was also fined $1,500.

“Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football and they’re ruining it a bit,” Messi said after the Chile match.

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Messi had also hit out at the organizers after Argentina’s semi-final elimination against hosts Brazil in their previous match.

“Brazil were the hosts and they’re managing a lot in CONMEBOL these days, which makes it complicated” for everyone else, Messi had said after his side were denied what appeared like two clear penalties in a 2-0 defeat.

The CONMEBOL commission made no mention, however, of Messi’s comments, for which he was expected to face harsher punishment.

The announcement came after CONMEBOL, earlier on Tuesday, sanctioned AFA president Claudio Tapia for his blistering attack on Ecuadoran referee Roddy Zambrano, who had refused to consult VAR over the two Argentine penalty claims in their 2-0 defeat to Brazil.

Tapia had hit out at “serious and gross refereeing mistakes” while questioning whether “the principles of ethics, loyalty and transparency” had been observed during the match.

CONMEBOL stripped Tapia of his role as the regional body’s representative on the Fifa executive committee.

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Milan rivals face off in first video game derby

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Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan are set to face off in a video game derby as the football-mad country remains in lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Milan’s Portuguese striker Rafael Leao will take on Inter’s Sebastiano Esposito on Saturday at 1:30 pm (1130 GMT) on eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (PES).

The Milan eDerby will be available live on DAZN, one of two broadcasters of Serie A in Italy, and on both Inter and AC Milan’s official channels.

“Being a derby there is always the desire to win. But the main objective is to be close to our fans in this complicated time,” said Leao.

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It will be possible during the game to donate funds to the Milan Foundation for the fight against COVID-19, with the Lombardy region at the epicentre of the outbreak in Italy.

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Italian football has been on hold since March 9, as a result of the virus which has killed over 18,000 people in the country.

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Fernandes determined to become a Man United legend

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LON DON, United Kingdom, Apr 10 – Manchester United midfield ace Bruno Fernandes has named eight club legends and vowed to be counted among them one day.

The Portuguese playmaker has made an impressive start to his United career, providing three goals and four assists for his new side.

And Fernandes is keen to become a club legend, like the idols he watched growing up as a Red Devils fan.

“I have already said this a lot of times but it was a dream come true,” Fernandes said. “For me, ever since I was a kid, it was a dream playing for Manchester United.

“Manchester United was and is one of the biggest clubs in the world. You look in the past and when I’m younger, you look at the players who played for Manchester United.

“You see the biggest stars in the world. You see the best players in the world. You have players from everywhere and also, we talked a lot and I told you about Cristiano.

“I looked at Manchester with more interest when Cristiano was here, because it’s normal when you have Portuguese players in some teams, you look at them more than other teams.”

“But at that moment, I started to look at Manchester in a different way because you see Cristiano but then you also see the team and you have Paul Scholes, you have [Wayne] Rooney, you have [Ryan] Giggs and you have Roy Keane, [Eric] Cantona before.

“You have a lot of players… I don’t know… [Ruud] van Nistelrooy… I can stay here for hours saying all the names of players for Manchester United.

“Also Nani, who’s played with me. You have big stars playing here. Joining Manchester United was so easy because since I was a kid, it was a dream, so for me, doing this step, a big step to the Premier League and Manchester United was perfect.”

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Rugby Australia CEO takes bigger pay cut

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SYDNEY, Australia, Apr 10 – Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle is set to take a further cut to her salary during the coronavirus pandemic.

Castle has decided to increase her 50 per cent pay cut to 65 per cent which matches the number that the national body is believed to be requesting from its playing group.

Castle last week announced she would be taking a 50 per cent pay cut and her executive team have taken 30 per cent pay cuts for the next three months.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday night, Castle said she decided to reduce her salary by an extra 15 per cent.

“We’ve been head down concentrating on trying to find a plan that protects the long term viability of the game, looking under every rock to try to save every penny we can to make sure the game is on a stable footing for the long term,” she said.

“Off the back of that I’ve decided to take an additional 15 per cent that will take my pay cut to 65 per cent.

“Overnight 80 per cent of the game’s revenue was turned off and, at the time, taking a 50 per cent pay cut was the best thing I felt I could do to lead in this unprecedented situation. After another few weeks of work, the right number is 65 per cent.

“It’s the right thing to do. I have made that decision and recommended it to the board because we’re facing really tough times and have to make these calls.

“Like everyone through the game that’s had to stand down and make difficult decisions, I’m no different.”

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