ZURICH: The head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, was banned from all football-related activity for a year by FIFA on Friday on charges of inciting hatred and violence before a friendly planned between Israel and Argentina.

Rajoub protested after Israel switched the venue of the June game from Haifa

to Jerusalem. He urged Palestinians to burn shirts bearing the name of Lionel Messi if Argentina’s star went ahead and played there.

The change of venue came at a particularly sensitive time, after US President Donald Trump had recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as the capital of their own future state.

Global football body FIFA said on Friday its disciplinary committee considered Rajoub’s statements “incited hatred

and violence”. It banned him for 12 months and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000).

Rajoub, it said, was banned from “taking part in any future match or competition taking place during the given period”. That included attending matches in any official capacity and participating in media activities at or near stadiums on match days, it added.

The ban will apply for the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates, which kicks off in January, and likely include the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying programme.

Rajoub is able to continue his day-to-day work running the federation and attend FIFA meetings.

Responding to the FIFA statement, Rajoub, who is also the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the decision was “unfair”.

Speaking by telephone from China, Rajoub said he would appeal the FIFA ruling.

“This is an incorrect and unfair decision, and we will appeal against the decision in FIFA’s appeals court and take all legal measures under FIFA rules,” Rajoub said.

Israel’s association declined to comment.

Argentina decided to pull out of the friendly, which would have been their last appearance before the World Cup, as political pressure mounted over the game.

Rajoub has long tried to get football’s world governing body, FIFA, and the International Olympic Committee to impose sanctions against Israel. This is mainly because of the Israeli government’s settlements policy in the West Bank and because it has imposed travel restrictions on Palestinian athletes citing security concerns. Those bodies have not heeded his calls.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2018

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