Barcelona's Lionel Messi(L) vies with Espanyol's Javi Fuego during the Spanish first division (La Liga) soccer match between RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona at RCDE Stadium in Barcelona, Spain, April 29, 2017. Barcelona won 3-0. (Xinhua/Lino De Vallier)
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Lionel Messi has been cleared to play in Argentina's remaining 2018 World Cup qualifiers after the FIFA appeal committee overturned a four-game ban.
The 29-year-old was suspended for insulting an assistant referee in the Albiceleste's 1-0 victory over Chile in March.
In a statement issued on Friday, FIFA said the appeal committee upheld an appeal by the Argentinian Football Association on the grounds there was insufficient evidence.
"The appeal committee nevertheless underlines the importance of always showing respect to the match officials, stressing that such a principle is essential in football and any unsporting conduct that may be contrary to the principles of fair play cannot be accepted," FIFA said.
The football governing body also lifted a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs (around 10,000 US dollars).
Messi had already missed Argentina's 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz as a result of the ban.
The appeal committee's decision means the Barcelona forward is available for the Albiceleste's matches against Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador later this year.
Argentina are currently fifth in the South American zone standings with 22 points from 14 matches, 11 points behind leaders Brazil.
Only the top four teams will automatically progress to football's showpiece tournament in Russia next year while the fifth-ranked team will earn a play-off spot.