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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Palestinian football chief to appeal Fifa ban over Messi

Jibril Rajoub says he will ‘use every possible opportunity’ to fight decision

Jibril Rajoub, President of Palestinian Football Association, addresses the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015. Reuters.
Jibril Rajoub, President of Palestinian Football Association, addresses the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015. Reuters.

The president of the Palestinian Football Association is to appeal Fifa’s decision to ban him for a year after comments he made about Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Jibril Rajoub called on fans to burn shirts bearing the footballer’s name ahead of a proposed match between his national team Argentina and Israel in the contested city of Jerusalem.

Palestinian protests led to the cancellation of the match that was set to be Argentina’s final warm-up match before the World Cup.

But Fifa handed down a 12-month suspension for the Palestinian football chief, accusing him of inciting hatred and violence towards the player. He is now banned from attending any football match in an official capacity for a year.

On Saturday, he told the Associated Press that he was working with his legal team to decide his next steps but said he will “use every possible opportunity” to fight the decision”.

He is set to return to the West Bank city of Ramallah where the football association is headquartered and where he will hold a press conference to address the ban.

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Mr Rajoub was not permitted a hearing by Fifa and the Palestinian Football Association says that evidence provided to the global footballing body was not considering before the ban was handed down.

The association lashed out at the decision on Saturday in a statement given to The National, calling Fifa's decision disproportionate, "absurd and lacking in evidence".

It also said that Messi and the Argentinian Football Association did not put forward a complaint to Fifa, but rather it was put forward by the Israeli FA for political reasons.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev was widely condemned for the debacle in which the game was moved from Haifa to Jerusalem, the city that Palestinians envisage for any future state, only for the game to be called off at the last minute.

Mr Rajoub will miss the Asian Games that begin in the UAE in January. But he will still be allowed to continue running the association.

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