The latest addition to your “just CONMEBOL things” folder comes courtesy of the trigger-happy ref officiating the Copa América third place game between Argentina and Chile.
Around the 40th minute, Lionel Messi and Chile’s Gary Medel chased after a ball heading out of bounds. Medel seems to throw a shoulder towards the Argentinian, and Messi gives the Chilean a shove in retaliation. Messi’s move was not received too kindly by Medel, who began to charge at his opponent with the gusto of Scrappy Doo and started shoving Messi repeatedly. Messi absorbs most of these hits, and ultimately lifts his arms up in the air to show he’s not retaliating. Right as he puts his arm partly around Medel’s head—for either balance or retribution—the referee runs in and gives both players straight red cards.
Here’s a slow-motion replay of the minor scuffle.
Tensions had been rising in this match, and Argentina had asserted quite a lot of dominance over Chile so far—Argentina are up 2-0 at the half—but there was not a lot going on in that incident to warrant an immediate ejection for both players. A red for Medel could at least be justified, albeit harsh, but one for Messi was entirely unnecessary and seemed to confuse both players. It’s yet another example of the officiating incompetence that this competition tends to breed.
But the most incredible thing about all of this is that in one of the few times that a South American player doesn’t immediately go to ground after getting bumped like this, he gets sent off. Can’t imagine many will be inspired to follow in Messi’s footsteps with regards to standing one’s ground in these situations after what just happened.