Palestine’s Rajoub to appeal ban as PFA questions speed of ‘absurd’ ban

By Andrew Warshaw

August 28 – The head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, has rejected his one-year ban by FIFA and says he will appeal against what his federation described as a sanction that was “disproportionate, absurd, and lacking in evidence.”

Last week FIFA suspended the outspoken PFA leader for inciting fans to hatred and violence against Argentine superstar Lionel Messi as part of Rajoub’s campaign to prevent Argentina’s national team from playing a friendly in Israel prior to the World Cup.

Rajoub called on fans to burn pictures and shirts of Messi if he played in the warm-up friendly that was originally scheduled for Haifa but provocatively switched by Israel to disputed Jerusalem and, specifically, to the Teddy Kollek Stadium which is built on land that, according to Palestinians, was a village destroyed in 1948.

The match ultimately never took place when it was called off by Argentina’s own federation despite an appeal from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his opposite number Mauricio Macri.

Argentinian Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie commented at the time that team members felt “totally attacked [and] violated”  and while the cancellation infuriated Israeli fans, it caused elation among Palestinians.

FIFA not only banned Rajoub but also fined him CHF20,000. He is prevented from attending matches or engaging with the media at or near stadiums on match days though he is still reportedly able to continue running his federation and, ironically, attend FIFA meetings.

Rajoub told the Associated Press that he will “use every possible opportunity” to fight the decision including holding a press conference in Ramallah later this week.

FIFA imposed the minimum ban allowed in its disciplinary code for inciting hatred or violence but Rajoub’s federation lashed out at the ruling describing it as biased and absurd.

Rajoub was not granted a hearing and his testimony was not considered by the disciplinary committee, the PFA said, adding that FIFA announced the ban before notifying the federation itself.

“There has been a predisposition to ban General Rajoub from football activities for a long time,” said a PFA statement. “We see the decision as unproportionate, absurd, and lacking in evidence.”

Predictably, the PFA partly blames the Israeli FA for the FIFA sanction and argues, not altogether convincingly, that the Argentine federation itself did not file a complaint.

Nowhere, however, does it deny Rajoub made the statement instead reverting to the long-standing (if perfectly valid) argument about the way Palestinians are treated by their Israeli neighbours.

“We are surprised by the speed at which FIFA was quick to convict the President of the Palestine FA, and how difficult it remains for FIFA to guarantee the right to play freely, safely, and without hindrance to the children of Palestine.”

“The Palestine Football Association, as always, reaffirms its commitment to law and procedure, and its respect to the institutions of FIFA, but we also retain our right to pursue this issue to the last possible legal venue.”

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