TEL AVIV— The head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, said he would appeal FIFA’s decision to ban him for inciting fans to “hatred and violence” against Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi as part of an intense Palestinian campaign that he launched in a bid to stop Argentina from playing a warm-up game in Israel this summer.
Rajoub at the time called on Arab soccer fans to burn posters and shirts of Messi if the game went ahead. Rajoub, who also heads up the Palestinian Olympic Committee, is a former terrorist who has served time in Israeli jails, routinely glorifies terror and refers to Jews as “Satan.”
Rajoub’s campaign succeeded and the friendly match was cancelled.
The PA sports chief was banned from attending any soccer matches for a year, which will include the 019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates and the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying matches. Rajoub will still be permitted to run the football association and, as such, attend FIFA meetings. Rajoub was fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,300).
Rajoub said he would “use every possible opportunity” to reverse the decision, AP reported.
The Palestinian Football Association, meanwhile, called the decision biased and “absurd,” and slammed FIFA for not granting Rajoub a hearing.
Rajoub was filmed in June, saying in Arabic, “We will target Messi and we will ask everyone to burn his t-shirt, his picture and to abandon him.”
Photos of the team’s jersey soaked in blood circulated on social media prompting Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie to release a statement saying the team’s players felt “totally attacked, violated.”
Israel’s Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev at the time described Rajoub’s campaign as being one of “terror.”
“Threats to Lionel Messi’s life overwhelmed the sport. … It’s terror,” she said.
The Israel Football Association (IFA) charged the Palestinians with crossing a “red line” by fanning the flames of hatred towards the Argentinian players.
“(Rajoub’s) aim was to harm our country through soccer,” IFA Chairman Ofer Eini said.
“There is an issue of personal threats against players. If a politician publicly calls to burn a shirt, somebody could take it a step further. I don’t think that the people who run world soccer can ignore this,” he said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the campaign to force Argentina into cancelling was led by a “pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters.”
“It’s unfortunate the soccer knights of Argentina did not withstand the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal is to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel,” said Liberman. “We will not yield before a pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters.”