Copa America: Paraguayan legend defends Lionel Messi amid corruption controversy, says CONMEBOL is 'killing football'
What's the story?
Paraguay's football legend, José Luis Chilavert, has come out in defense of Argentina captain Lionel Messi amid the forward's allegations against the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).
The former goalkeeper has urged the players to come together to boycott the organization, which he believes is "killing football".
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Argentina's Copa America campaign ended on a bitter note as the team finished at third place following a 2-1 win over Chile in the playoffs on Saturday. Lionel Scaloni's men squandered the chance to play in the final after succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to old rivals, Brazil, in the semi-finals of the tournament.
In addition, La Albiceleste was embroiled in a feud with CONMEBOL, which started when Messi accused the tournament's match officials of favouring the Selecao throughout their semi-final clash. Things escalated further when the Barcelona talisman was sent off in the next game, after an altercation with Chile skipper Gary Medel.
The 32-year-old boycotted the medal ceremony after the final whistle and refused to join his teammates at the podium. Instead, he reiterated his opinion on the biased nature of the 2019 Copa America, accusing CONMEBOL of setting it up for Brazil to win.
While some players have come out in support of Messi, Brazil's players and their manager have publicly slammed him for undermining their victory.
The heart of the matter
Chilavert has defended Messi amid the controversy and has called for football players to boycott CONMEBOL as he believes the organisation is "killing football".
According to Mundo Deportivo, he said, "Undoubtedly, this Copa America was prepared for Brazil to become champions."
"CONMEBOL is killing football. Why would they sanction Messi, if we live in a democratic world? The players need to unite and boycott CONMEBOL."
He added, "The issue of the VAR came to legalise the corruption that exists in football in South America, the company that manages the VAR was in the FIFA Gate. What makes me laugh is that they say 'Chilavert was right'."
Messi could face a ban from international football for two years, which means he risks missing out on the 2020 Copa America and qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Brazil, on the other hand, went on to win their first Copa America trophy since 2007.