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AFA lodges complaint with CONMEBOL over refereeing in Brazil defeat

Buenos Aires, Argentina: The Argentine Football Association (AFA) on Wednesday lodged a complaint with South American football's governing body CONMEBOL over the "serious and gross refereeing errors" in their Copa America semi-final loss to arch rivals and tournament hosts Brazil.

Lionel Messi's side were beaten 2-0 as their wait for a first major title since 1993 was extended on Tuesday.

AFA president Claudio Tapia also criticised Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who attended the game in Belo Horizonte and who performed "a clear political demonstration" that included "an Olympic lap of honor around the stadium at half-time."

Tapia sent a six-page letter to CONMEBOL in support of the Argentinian team and after Messi himself had expressed his anger against South American football's governing body and the refereeing of Ecuadorian Roddy Zambrano.

Tapia said that Zambrano "unjustifiably omitted the use of VAR in at least two specific moves that clearly influenced the final result of the match."

And he questioned whether "the principles of ethics, loyalty and transparency" had been observed during the match.

Messi had also fumed over his perceived sense of injustice claiming to have "grown tired of talking about the bullshit in this Copa," adding that "Brazil were the hosts and they're managing a lot in CONMEBOL these days, which makes it complicated" for everyone else. 

Tapia added that AFA had previously questioned the appointment of the refereeing team because of "Zambrano's negative history" that "amplified the doubt" surrounding the match's fairness.

AFA also criticised the Brazilian football federation for "breaching organisational rules" which caused "unjustified delays in the transport of equipment to stadiums", except for the hosts.

Tapia seemed particularly angered by Bolsonaro's presence. 

The Brazilian leader went to pitchside at half-time and waved enthusiastically to fans, and at one point climbed onto advertising hoardings and waved the national flag.

Far-right Bolsonaro was voted in as president last October after a polarized and bitter campaign in which his chief rival and former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was barred from standing due to a corruption conviction that saw him sitting in jail when the vote took place.

Tapia pointed to world football governing body FIFA and CONMEBOL's rules that "prohibit… political demonstrations at a sports event."

He added that both governing bodies had in the past "sanctioned players for having visibly demonstrated political allegiance during matches."

When contacted by AFP, a CONMEBOL spokesperson said they were looking at how to respond to the accusations.

Argentina have not won the Copa America since 1993 and before this year's edition they had lost in four of the last five finals — twice to Brazil. 

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