SAN JUAN, Argentina (Reuters) - Lionel Messi led his 26-man Argentina squad in a protest on Tuesday against perceived mistreatment by the media, saying they were boycotting the press until further notice.
Messi had just inspired a 3-0 home win over Colombia scoring one goal and laying on the other two to put Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.
“We have decided not to speak any more with the press,” Messi announced in the post-match press conference room with his 25 team mates attending.
“We’ve received many accusations, a lot of lack of respect and we never said anything. We’re very sorry it has to be like this but we have no option,” the captain said.
“We know there are lots of you who are not in the game of not showing us respect… but getting into one’s personal life is very grave and that’s why we’re here (announcing this),” he added before they all walked out.
The players have suffered criticism by sectors of the Argentine media over a loss of form and poor results, but their decision was sparked by a radio report alleging Ezequiel Lavezzi smoked marijuana after a practice.
It transpired at the press conference that Lavezzi is taking the Radio Mitre reporter to court.
Coach Edgardo Bauza, whose media conference was held afterwards, said the victory made him happy for the team.
“I told the players I’m happy for them after a week of criticism… and because it wasn’t an easy match,” he said.
“Messi is a great and decisive player, he showed that in the first goal and with the others.”
Argentina were slated by some media after going down 3-0 to Brazil in Belo Horizonte last Thursday.
It was their second consecutive defeat and followed two draws, leaving Argentina with two points out of a possible 12.
Tuesday’s win means they have 19 points from 12 matches in fifth place in the South American group.
The top four go straight into the finals in Russia in 2018 while the fifth qualifies for an intercontinental playoff.
There are six rounds of matches to go next year with Argentina resuming their campaign at home to Chile, who are fourth behind Brazil, Uruguay and Ecuador.
Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Andrew Both