Palestinian football chief to appeal FIFA ban after ‘hate campaign’ against Messi

The head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has said that he will appeal against his year-long FIFA ban for inciting fans against Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi.

Jibril Rajoub said on Monday that he was prepared to fight the decision by football’s world governing body all the way to the court in The Hague if he has to. 

FIFA banned Rajoub from attending matches for a year over his involvement in a campaign to prevent Argentina from playing Israel in a friendly international before the World Cup in June. 

According to the FIFA indictment, Rajoub “incited hatred and violence, by calling on “football fans to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi”.

Argentina subsequently cancelled the game, with Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie stating that the players felt “totally attacked, violated” after images emerged of Argentina’s white and sky-blue striped jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood.

Rajoub told reporters in Ramallah that FIFA’s decision was “unfair” and “politically motivated”. 

“We will go to the appeals court and to the FIFA sport court of appeals and to Swiss and European courts after we have exhausted the legal FIFA system,” he said. 

“We will continue efforts to fight injustice against the association,” said Rajoub.

Israel continues to limit our movement and ability to play within the West Bank and Gaza, welcome trainers and experts – Iraq‘s team visit and Gaza athletes are recent examples.”

Rajoub has long lobbied FIFA to sanction Israel for what he called its restriction of movement of Palestinian players. 

Israel’s plan to switch the venue of the June game from Haifa to Jerusalem also incensed Rajoub because the stadium that was to host the match is situated in a neighbourhood built on the site of a former Palestinian village destroyed during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

The change of venue also came at a particularly sensitive time, after US President Donald Trump had recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian leaders want the eastern part of the city as the capital of their own future state.

FIFA had imposed the minimum ban allowed in its disciplinary code for inciting hatred or violence. 

The ban will be in place during the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which kicks off in January, and is also likely to include the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Rajoub, who is also the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,300).

However, Rajoub is free to continue his day-to-day work running the PFA and attend FIFA meetings.  –

Al-Jazeera and News Agencies

Mettle Administrative Services

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